How poor records killed my 48-acre wheat enterprise

Mr Geoffrey Rono in his greenhouse near Mara River. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Mr Geoffrey Rono in his greenhouse near Mara River. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

People venturing into agribusiness can prevent or reduce losses, predict the future of their investment, and time sales for the best pricing by adopting book-keepingto improve decision making.

A study by the Federal Polytechnic of Nigeria of 155 small scale farmers in Nasarawa State found that 79 per cent of the farmers acknowledged the importance of farm records in knowing their worth, in planning budgets and in monitoring their financial progress.

For Geoffrey Rono, who, in 2012, lost Sh6 million from wheat farming on his 48 acres of land due to the lack of proper record keeping across his expenses and earnings, was forced to start afresh, changing from wheat to hay production and greenhouse farming.

He had to sell his tractor for Sh1.5 million to start again, with hay production, in 2014.

“By the end of 2013, I was unable to account for my wheat production expenses, all I noticed was that I could not plant the following season as the money I realised from selling wheat was not enough to buy fresh farm inputs,” said Rono.

“I felt totally finished to a point of committing suicide as I had never lost such a huge amount of money before.”

On sharing his ordeal, the area agricultural extension officer and fellow farmers advised him on the benefits of book-keeping, which he has since adopted, as he has ventured into Boma Rhodes hay production and greenhouse tomato farming.

“I now use a 612-page hard book to record my production expenses, sales and timing of my crops, which enables me know when to plant, what to add at a given production level, and market trends on a daily basis,” said Mr Rono.

He earns about Sh2.8 million net annual profit from hay sales, and Sh3.2 million net income per season from his greenhouse tomato farming.

Beyond a note book, farmers are also moving to use technology-based methods such as mobile phone applications to run the bookkeeping on their farming activities.

Palmer Mureithi, who is an accountant by profession, is using a free mobile phone application called ‘My Wallet’ to run the bookkeeping on his dairy and banana farming in South Imenti, Meru County.

He started using the app right from when he began farming in 2013 to enable him to best judge which direction to take his farming in future.

“I stated keeping my farm records five years ago, when I started banana farming. I want to see where my business will be by 2020 and so my records must be straight and up-to-date,” said Mureithi.

“Agribusiness is just like any other type of business, which requires recordkeeping to enable investors in the sector track their operations for proper judgments on the future of their farm production and sales.”

For My Wallet, one has to log in using personal credentials to access the app.

It generates summaries of budgets, bills, expenses and incomes based on the spending and receipts keyed into the app, which records financial statements, and the date and time of every transaction.

“I do not find it hard to use the app because of my background in accountancy. Any transactions I make related to my farming business I key in properly with dates and time to enable me to retrieve the information anytime and anywhere to check on my performances,” said Mureithi.

His investment capital in the banana and dairy farming has been more than Sh2.2 million, which he used to buy two mature Friesian cows and one Ayrshire cow, for around Sh120,000 to Sh140,000 each, in October 2016.

He now owns 10 cows, having later added five Friesian heifers of 6-18 months old, which he bought at Sh40,000-80,000 each.

Other farmers are using web-based data management systems to keep their farming information, which they have signed up for and enter with log ins every time they want to feed in their data.

Zabdi Chumba, a graduate from Egerton University with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, is growing vegetables, and got introduced to Gordios Farm, which is an online data management system, by a farmer from South Sudan who uses the online service.

Users sign up for free, but need to have Internet access for each log in to add or check data.

“I registered at the beginning of last year after learning about it from a colleague. It has helped me improve on my record keeping as compared to the previous clipped foolscap papers I used,” said Chumba.

“After every day’s activities, I list everything including expenses and sales, then do my calculations from my computer. I then log in and feed all the information into the website, from where I can retrieve them any time I want.”

The website, which he says was developed to help farmers practising agribusiness, also recommends online content on agronomical practices, fertiliser types and usage, seed varieties and market information for farmers.

Based on his financial results, Mr Chumba is growing kales, cabbages and indigenous vegetables, such as black night shade, cowpeas and spider plant, on his two acre plot, earning him over Sh480,000 per season.

- African Laughter