Mr Joel Kibagendi is almost giving up wheat farming due to a lack of tractors to prepare his land in Rongai, Nakuru County. He has been trying to get tractor services from a neighbour with little success.
"I'm contemplating abandoning wheat farming because the planting season has been delayed by two weeks and this has affected my yields," he says.
Some 50km away in Lanet, Mr Joseph Kiarie is staring at the overgrown hay on his 10 acres farm. The grass is ready for harvesting but the only harvesting machine in the area has broken down.
These are some of the challenges that farmers in Nakuru Town face daily as they strive to reap maximum profits from agri-business ventures.
However, this is changing after the county revamped its Agriculture Mechanisation Services. The devolved unit has injected Sh20 million in the past two years by buying four new tractors to be hired out to smallholder farmers at Sh2,500 per acre instead of the market rate’s Sh3,000 per acre.
The service, which is fast taking root in all the 11 sub-counties, is a game changer.
"We hired a bail making machine and members of our cooperative society are reaping big as we are bailing hay which we sell at subsidised rates. Some of our members have opened outlets in the trading centres in the Gilgil sub-county," said Joseph Kimani, a member of a cooperative in Kiptangwany.
The uptake of the mechanisation services has seen an increase in milk production. Farmers don't need to worry when the dry season sets in as they have enough hay for their animals.
"The mechanisation services have stabilised the feeds system. January and February are tough months for livestock farmers as their milk production dip but since I embraced the services, milk production has doubled as I have enough hay and this has translated into more money in my pockets," added Mr Kimani.
“The equipment belongs to the county and is hosted by the cooperative to offer services to the members of the society and other members who are members of the cooperative," said Dr Immaculate Maina, Nakuru County executive committee member in charge of Agriculture.
In the model, cooperatives hire the tractors. They partially own the machinery by servicing them instead of waiting for the county mechanics to service them.
"We have not gone back to them as a county to do maintenance and this has saved the county the headache of servicing the machines," added Dr Maina.
The county has also extended the services to potato growing farmers in Kuresoi South and north and this has seen farmers harvest their crops in time.
One of the cooperatives that have benefited is Starlight Cooperative society. Since they started using the equipment, the cooperative society has embarked on serious commercialisation of the potato seeds.
The cooperative now harvests up to 1,000 bags of potato seed. It has ventured into dairy farming which has attracted big donors like SNV Netherlands Development Organisation, a non-profit international development organization from the Netherlands.
"We have seen serious commercialisation coming out of this arrangement and the good news is that courtesy of the mechanisation services, last season the cooperative handled a huge volume of seed potato which they delivered to the market in good time and earned good money," said Paul Kering, a potato farmer in Kuresoi.
According to Dr Maina, the county’s main focus is to work with smallholder farmers. "We believe the large scale farmers are well equipped and can get information on the mechanisation that they need," he said.
The county has partnered with Hello Tractor who have developed an App that has a tracking device. Farmers can use the App to order tractors. The twining of mechanisation services with a digital platform has enhanced efficiencies as farmers are connected directly to tractor owners and spend the minimum time waiting for services.
Besides improving service delivery, the digital platform could also enhance efficiencies on the part of the owner of the tractor in terms of tracing the services that the tractor is giving and supervising the operator remotely.
The App installed in the tractor also records the number of acres the tractor has ploughed, fuel consumed and eliminates any form of siphoning of the fuel besides monitoring the movement from one area to another.
The tractor owner can track losses and time for servicing and this will enable the investor to optimise use of the machine.
The mechanisation has opened a new line of opportunity along the value chain, especially haymaking and bailing and this has translated into a major boost to the livestock sector.
"There is a lot of private sector investment particularly in the hay farming and bailing and that is a good thing to farmers. It has opened a new window of opportunities to livestock farmers who were staring at losses during dry seasons," said Charles Kiarie, a hay farmer in Njoro sub-county.