By Mourine OJambo
In Urban areas kitchens demand for potato has been on the rise especially during the coronavirus epidemic as the crop can be stored longer than other vegetables. The price of the tuber has been increasing gradually in the recent times. Traders engaged in selling the crop have been reaping big while its farmers struggle to make ends meet. Many Kenyan farmers do not reap much from the crop due to improper land preparation, poor cultivation and post-harvest losses. Lack of information and inaccessibility of proper farm machinery have left farmers at nature’s mercy. As part of the solution to farmers’ woes, TingA, East Africa’s largest network of farm equipment through the European Union’s Agrifi project has been helping farmers in Mau area reap big from the third most popular crop in Kenya.
Speaking while training farmers in Mau, Philip Nyandieka, and the CEO TingA said, “we realized that most farmers fail to prepare their land well and hence not able to get the anticipated returns making them shun farming. Good harvests are cultivated from the land preparation stage. Failure to get it right from the begging you are likely not to correct it after planting. That is why before we take up a farmers project we take them through training that ensure that they get value for their investments in the farms.”
The firm has trained more than 8000 farmers across the country and has been offering mechanization services to the farmers that has yielded into more than threefold returns for the farmers in various regions.
“Together with Self-Help Africa we have been helping farmers to modernize and harness the full economic, employment and export potential of agriculture. Even though we had challenges implementing the project due to the pandemic, we are almost realizing its goals. A number of farmers have benefited from our training and mechanization services. Their production has increased by at least 300%. In addition they have also reduced their post-harvest loses by 90% and therefore increasing their profit margin and improving their livelihoods,” added Nyandieka.
The firm received a grant of Sh51.2 million from the European Union (EU) though Self Help Africa to facilitate training and ease access of mechanization to farmers in Narok County. The project is aimed at increasing smallholder potato farmers’ income through an integrated value chain approach. Due to the semi-arid nature of the county, farmer training and mechanization services will focus strongly on conservation agriculture techniques, especially conservation tillage.
Mr. Zakaria Merkum, a farmer in Narok area said, “In the past, we were using traditional methods to farm without knowing that we could get more with use of machinery. Most of us think that machinery are very expensive but in real sense, they are cheaper at long run as opposed to the use of manual labour. Farm machinery has not only brought efficiency but also reduced farmers loss from theft and saves time. Should you not cover your potatoes properly you will find thieves stealing them”.
“Like any other parts of the country, our biggest challenge here in Mau for many years has been accessing farm equipment and as a result, many of the farmers around here have no option but to use the traditional farming techniques. This has hindered the farms to produce to their full capacity,” he added.
The farmers in Narok County under the project experience hands-on training through the firms Narok Hub and its partners. The challenge with machineries just like cars they breakdown if not properly managed. The firm said that to take care of this challenge, they have a pool of equipment operators and mechanics to maintain and take good care of this mechanization support.
“When schools open, I don’t think school fees will be a problem like before. Since we started using machinery all the way from land preparation, planting, spraying and harvesting, we are able to harvest more than what we used to produce initially. The equipment has helped us to earn more profits that we plough in other projects,” said Naomi Koika.
The firm has emphasized the importance of mechanization in boosting the efficiency of the farmers in order to improve their livelihoods and guarantee food security especially in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.
TingA is a project of Quipbank Trust Limited that employs the use of modern day technology channels to allow farmers access farming mechanization. One of these being it’s online based platforms that enable farmers to register and order for services as groups or individuals using hand gadgets such as mobile phones, tablet or computers. This accessibility enables even small-scale farmers to enjoy farming equipment on short-term leases. TingA Community Model Concept works by allowing farmers to register for mechanization services as groups through already established units such as NGOs, Chama, SACCO, Co-operative Societies, or Churches.
TingA is owned by Vehicle and Equipment Leasing Limited (VAELL) the largest leasing firm in East Africa. VAELL was recently hosted by Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) onto its premium incubation and acceleration programme, Ibuka.
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