The County Government of Nakuru has launched a project to promote adoption of technology and mechanized farming among smallholder farmers to boost production and quality of their produce.
County Executive Committee Member for Agriculture Dr Immaculate Maina said the devolved unit had procured farm machinery valued at Ksh 25 million for distribution to small-scale farmer groups in the first phase of the project dubbed ‘Agriculture Mechanization Services’ (AMS).
“Technological advancements have enabled the manufacture of light and cheaper machinery that can help smallholder farmers revolutionize agriculture both in terms of quantity and quality of products grown and processed.
We have distributed equipment worth Ksh 10.5 million to a farmer group in Elementaita within Gilgil Sub-County. The county has spent a further Ksh 13.7 million to procure forage harvester, one baler, a rotary mower, a rake, a Gyro mower, a tipping trailer, a chisel plough and a tractor that will be donated to small-scale farmers’ associations,” stated Dr Maina.
Speaking when she received the second batch of the equipment, the CEC said the notion that mechanization is only for those in large-scale farming was misguided and a threat to Kenya’s food security.
“The need to boost crop yields to feed Kenyans is becoming a priority. All manufacturers need to contribute towards the realization of the government’s Big 4 Agenda. Technological advancements and innovations have helped small-scale farmers improve productivity thus making agriculture more profitable.
The County is implementing ways of achieving the Big 4 Agenda on food security which includes mechanized farming, irrigation, and use of quality seeds and appropriate fertilizers,” she said.
Dr Maina noted that mechanized farming contributed to timely preparation of land, efficient land use and increased production. It also reduced the cost of production and created more employment opportunities particularly among the youth.
The CEC revealed that her department was in talks with various lenders with a view to coming up with affordable financing opportunities for small-scale farmers wishing to acquire machinery.
She said smallholder farmers will also be equipped with technical knowhow to operate and maintain the machinery through field days, workshops, farm visits and seminars to enable them to become commercially successful.
“We are encouraging dealers of farm equipment whose services should consist of genuine spare parts centres and nationwide mobile service coverage to set shop in Nakuru. We are working with several institutions that will extend farmer financing products to purchase modern equipment.
“Asset financing should be tailor-made to suit abilities of both smallholder and large-scale farmers. Since some new farmers lack experience with planters, tractors and implements, dealers are encouraged to put in place training as part of the package for new owners. This should entail showing buyers how to maximize the use of their machinery to boost their food production by using mechanization,” said the CEC.
Dr Maina also observed that small-scale dairy farmers should embrace mechanized technology in making their own animal feeds translating to quality fodder, which will not only increase milk production but also beef, mutton and the quality of hides and skins.
According to Egerton University’s Tegemeo Institute of Policy and Research Analysis, the cost of producing a litre of milk in the country is between Ksh 19 to Ksh 25. But industry players want the cost reduced to Ksh 14 to be able to remain competitive within the East Africa region.
Dr Maina noted that dairy feeds accounted for an average 70 percent of the cost of production and that if farmers employed mechanized technology to mix their own feeds at home, it will directly reduce the cost of producing milk.
“What is produced by some feed manufacturers is not necessarily of high quality. Various samples of animal feeds have been analyzed and found to be of poor quality. It is better for small scale dairy farmers to mix their own feeds where they are guaranteed the quality and quantity of ingredients,” stated the CEC.
Livestock Chief Officer, Dr Enos Amuyunzu said the devolved unit was committed to promoting uptake of mechanized farming among smallholder growers through capacity building strategies targeting youth and farmer groups.
The County, he said is working on a mechanization policy that will enable farm equipment operators to be trained by various stakeholders in partnership with manufacturers and their appointed dealers.