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Mechanised farming holds key to better returns from agriculture

Planting time in Kenya’s Rift Valley. Demand for harrows, planters and other farm machinery is high, meaning that farmers have to wait longer, slowing down  planting in time for the rains. Photo/File
Planting time in Kenya’s Rift Valley. Demand for harrows, planters and other farm machinery is high, meaning that farmers have to wait longer, slowing down planting in time for the rains. Photo/File 

For Timothy Kendagor, a farmer in Siwa, Rift Valley, the planting season always comes with a bit of trouble.

Farmers are often caught up in a mad rush for equipment as they prepare their land for sowing.

Demand for harrows, planters and other farm machinery is high, meaning that farmers have to wait longer, slowing down planting in time for the rains.

“When every person wants to have their shamba (farm) planted, it becomes hectic since we have to wait for days to get access to a planter,” said Mr Kendagor, a small-scale maize and wheat farmer, explaining why he eventually decided to buy his own planter.

The planter cost him Sh700,000 and he says he does not regret investing in the machine.

With the future of farming now resting with the emerging small scale and middle class farmers, there is urgent need to empower this group to ensure food security.

A farmer who leases between 50 acres and 500 acres of land is forced to hire tractors, ploughs, sprayers and planters and even lease storage space, said Fergus Robley, managing director of FMD, a company that supplies machinery.

FMD helps farmers by providing a one-stop shop for all mechanised agricultural machinery. The company also trains its customers on how to use the equipment.

Thanks to the partnerships with farmers, Mr Robley says the company’s sales have doubled since 2006, growth he attributes to after sale services offered to farmers, including basic maintenance and servicing training.

Farmers in the area are being urged to turn to modern machinery which saves time and long-term costs.

Nduati Kariuki, the chairman of Kenya National Federation of Agricultural Producers said it is time farmers increased their yield and as well as reduce costs of tilling and weeding through use of modern machinery.

He said the equipment makes it possible for farmers to undertake more than one activity in the farm, thus saving the long-term costs and improving productivity.

He said farmers also need to use new techniques such as moisture conservation, correct seed population and placement and correct use of agricultural chemicals if the country is to become self-sufficient in food production.