The burgeoning demand for modern farming techniques like drip kits buoyed by rising appetite for farming for business by more Kenyans is now seeing manufacturers positioning themselves to sate rising appetite.
Elgon Kenya an Agro based farm input firm for example, has set up a drip kits manufacturing plant, the first of its kind in the country, a move that has seen the price of their drip kits reduce by over 40 percent.
In recent times, the adoption of modern farming techniques like greenhouses and drip kits by smallholder farmers in the country has been on the rise a fact that many stakeholders in the sector attribute to the maximum returns that the technologies promise. “Initially the modern technologies were a preserve of the few financially rich large-scale farmers mainly because of the huge initial investments that it demands.
However, with increasing erratic weather patterns and the increasing levels of unemployment, a new breed of smallholder farmers who are keen to take up agriculture as a lifetime investment career is on the rise,” explained Ppemal of Elgon Kenya.
According to Ppemal, these new breed of farmers are embracing the modern methods of farming and given the expensive nature of some of the equipment like greenhouses, most of these smallholder farmers are using the more affordable drip kits as a foundation into the modern agribusiness farming. “A mini drip kit costs about Sh12, 000 and one can start with this and use the returns to upgrade to the greenhouse farming which is more efficient,” added Ppemal.
The new plant established about three months ago has a capacity of over 100,000 meters of drip kits per day. The Kits, Ppemal explained, are all manufactured under the international standards and they can last for over 7 years if well catered for. “The plant has given us an opportunity to monitor the standards of the products we are producing for our clients.
We also have more options of producing varieties of various sizes with current 12mm, 16mm and 20mm. This is unlike when you are importing the products from other manufacturers as you cannot be totally responsible for the quality.” The various variety sizes cater for different client needs with smallholder farmers farming vegetables finding the 12mm drip kit ideal as the vegetables do not require much water as opposed to other crops like flowers.
The new initiative has spurred demand for the drip kits a fact that Ppemal attributes to the lower prices the kits are trading. He noted that after setting up the plant in the country, they have cut greatly the logistical costs that were incurred initially while importing the products. “We have cut the prices of drip kits from the initial Sh12 per meter to about Sh8 per meter due to the reduced costs in production and the demand for the drip kits has more than doubled.
We even get huge orders from farmers and other suppliers in advance and deliver after production.” Ppemal’s firm has also encouraged the adoption of the drip kits as a pioneer way towards large-scale adoption of modern agribusiness technology through the introduction of ‘Kadogo Kit’ which is an entry level kit for any smallholder farmer with low income levels.
Besides the reduced prices of the drip kits, the new move has also helped the country fight the high unemployment levels with statistics indicating that about 54 percent of Kenyans are unemployed with majority being youths.
“We wanted to also help the country against the unemployment menace and despite the plant being in its’ initial stage, over 300 people have been employed directly and indirectly,” explained Ppemal.