Tag farming makes a comeback on increased farming appetite

A farming model where farmers come together to till each other's land in turn at no pay, and which was common in the nineties, is making a comeback having now assisted farmers till large pieces of land in record time. The model is also credited with having cleared large swathes of traditionally bushy land which is now under crop cultivation.

The model commonly referred to as ngwatio in Central Kenya, loosely translated to a tag, was common in the nineties and was hailed as a win win situation for getting unemployed idle youth occupied. The model involves members of a youth group or a community based organization teaming up to till a members farm at an agreed day. They then move to the next members' farm at a later day. “ It is a very amazing model. In our group of 20 members we have managed to get all members' farms in a month, some with even 5 acres and we have saved so much in terms of savings,”said Meshack Kinyua a small scale farmer in Nyahururu.

He belongs to Rwakio farmers group, a farmer group which was among the pioneers of tag farming in the country and has now cleared over 20 acres of bushy land. “I couldnt even think of clearing the bushy land adjacent to my small parcel of land. But when the other members in a spirit of team work mobilized me we cleared the 1 acre land in one day and it is now a productive part of my land which I use have extended to include horticultural farming,”says Musembi Watiro. Members are not paid anything and the host farmer only cater for food. “I have an acre of land which I employed over 10 casual labourers to till.

They take three days to clear it with each earning Sh250 per day translating to over Sh7500 in the three days. And at times they would till so badly the land would be weedy before I could even start planting,”Said Serah Kamitu a farmer who belongs to another group in Kirinyaga District. She only spends Sh3,000 for food and drinks, which is mainly tea, with tag tillage with the farmers taking not more than two days to clear his land. “It is strength in numbers, and the farmers are meticulous and serious while tilling because they expect others to also do justice to their farm as they have done to the other members,”Serah added.

Determining who will be the first beneficiary in the model is by secret ballot. Cumulatively it is expected that farmers practising this model across the country save some Sh20million per planting season in labour cost according to a farmer NGO Bridgenet Africa. “And this also involves farmers being saved from the pain of having to re till the land due to money hungry labourers who are at times interested in just pay. We have realized there is intense tillage and farmer knowledge sharing with these models,”said Mwatasia Kimeu a programme officer with Bridgenet Africa.