Reliable and affordable farm labour is often a challenge to many farmers. However, this could change following the invention of a planting and weeding machine in Kenya.
For James Mwangi and Joel Kariuki, getting farm workers was a big challenge. The two brothers from Leshau Pondo village in Nyandarua county needed a solution for farmhands since many youth in the region were drunkards while others had left to the neighbouring towns in search of employment.
The two came up with the idea of solving the problem so that their ageing mother as well as other farmers in the area would continue with farming.
“We came up with the idea after witnessing the struggles that farmers had to endure during the planting, weeding and harvesting seasons. Some of the youth we used to hire to help in the farm had turned to alcohol while others had sought employment in towns. Our parents had to abandon farming as there was no labour,” says Mwangi.
In 2012, they came up with the idea of making a machine that would help in planting and weeding maize as well as harvesting potatoes which are normally grown in the area.
Three years down the line, their efforts have finally borne fruit. The two have made the machine using locally available materials.
The machine has been of great help to maize farmers in the region as it is now helping them in weeding during this rainy season.
He says he sought the support from his elder brother and they embarked on the work with no skills.
First, the two had to get a motorcycle engine that would power the machine.
“This was the first step and we acquired it from an abandoned motor cycle. This was to provide power as we sought other equipment like accelerators and gear peddles,” he says.
He said it took them one year to assemble all the equipment but to their disappointment, at first the machine did not work.
“We were saddened that we had taken a lot of our time and money to put the items together only for our dream not to come true. We however did not lose hope as we continued to modify it,” says the 25-year-old.
Mwangi says they continued working together, modifying the machine for three other tries until two weeks ago when their idea worked.
“This has been one of our greatest achievements as it has come as a relief to farmers in the region. Currently, the farmers are using it to weed,” he says.
He said it takes one day for a farmer to weed five acres of land which was impossible using manual labour.
He notes that farmers who used to spend Sh4,500 to weed an acre of land are now paying Sh2,500.
“The demand has been overwhelming as it is now proving to be cheaper since farmers are spending less. It has also saved on time,” he noted.
His brother Kariuki says the venture has become a source of income for them.
“It only requires me and him to operate and has now become our source of income. This should be a motivation for other creative youth,” says Kariuki.
Mwangi has since joined Moi University and is a fourth year student pursuing a Bachelor of Auto Motive Engineering and plans to motivate other youth to develop such innovations.
Their mother, Lucy Wambui, is all smiles about the achievement of her sons, saying they have provided a solution to many farmers in the region.
“The machine has done weeding in almost every farm in this area. What started as a joke to many people here is now a reality and I am proud that my area has produced innovators,” says Joseph Kamondo, Mathingira location chief.
He urged the county and national governments to support the two innovators.