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County partners with an American company to promote mechanized farming

Nakuru County Government has initiated a partnership with an American firm to encourage the adoption of technology and mechanized farming among smallholder farmers in a bid to improve the production and quality of their produce.

County Executive Committee Member for Trade, Tourism, and Cooperatives Stephen Kuria said the County was working with Hello Tractor to set up a mechanization hub which will also link providers of mechanized farm services with smallholder farmers who do not have agricultural machinery.

Kuria further said the initiative was aimed at giving younger farmers opportunities to embrace better-mechanized food production to increase yields in addition to making farming attractive to the younger generation.

Speaking during a meeting with a team from Hello Tractor led by its Chief Executive Officer Mr Jehiel Oliver, the CECM noted that technological advancements have enabled the manufacture of light and cheaper machines that could help smallholder farmers revolutionize agriculture both in terms of quantity and quality of products grown and processed.

Kuria said the notion that mechanization was only for those in large-scale farming was misguided and a threat to Kenya’s food security.

The County is seeking ways of enhancing food security through mechanized farming, irrigation, and use of quality seeds and appropriate fertilizers, he added.

Kuria noted that mechanized farming contributed to the timely preparation of land, efficient land use, and increased production in addition to reduced cost of production.

The CECM said there was a need for traders and dealers in agricultural machinery to equip smallholder farmers with technical know-how to operate and maintain the machinery through field days, workshops, farm visits, and seminars to enable them to become commercially successful.

Kuria stated that the County was working with dealers and manufacturers of farm machinery to ensure that their products targeting small-scale farmers were built with simplicity of design, unsurpassed reliability, outstanding fuel economy, and minimal maintenance requirements.

“We are working with several institutions that will extend farmers’ financing to purchase modern equipment,” said the CECM.

Kenyan farmers are still shying away from modernization due to a lack of capital. According to the World Bank report on Agribusiness Indicators, the degree of mechanization in Kenya is about three tractors per 1,000 hectares or 26.9 tractors per 100 square kilometers.

The report indicates that despite the potential that mechanization has in transforming agriculture by helping farmers intensify their businesses, mechanization levels remained very low in Kenya and across the continent.

In 2019, Africa Renewal reported that Africa had an average of about one to two tractors per every square kilometer compared to developed countries, where India had 128 tractors while Brazil registered 116 tractors per square kilometer.

The World Bank attributed the low level to the fact that mechanization is capital intensive, requiring special financial products such as long-term capital, credits, or leasing arrangements, which is beyond smallholder farmers and Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a UN specialized agency that champions efforts to defeat hunger, Africa overall has less than two tractors per 1,000 hectares of cropland while there are 10 tractors per 1,000 hectares in South Asia and Latin America.

By Esther Mwangi and Veronica Ngina

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