Farmers may soon spend about a sixth of the current tillage costs per acre after the Jomo Kenyatta of Agriculture and Technology commercialises its cheap fuel multipurpose Shujaa Tractor for small-holder farmers.
On average, it costs about Sh3,000 to hire a tractor for one acre. The big tractors need more than 10 litres to till the same piece.
Paul Apondi, a mechanical engineer at the university said the tractor consumes six litres of diesel to plough one acre.
Based on the current diesel cost of Sh85, six litres oil is about Sh510. The engineer said such an amount is affordable and farmers can use the excess to invest more.
“The aim of this innovation is to help small-holder farmers, who rely on oxen and jembe in preparing land. The mini tractor will be cheap to acquire and easy to maintain. Its running costs are lower than the big tractors,” the engineer said.
The machine is being tested on efficiency to work in the various soils around Kenya before the price is fixed ahead of commercialisation.
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In addition to tillage, Shujaa can be used in application of agrochemicals, planting, making ridges, weeding, transportation, among other chores in respect to the attached implement.
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Farmers are increasingly moving to the emerging two-wheeled hand-held tractors. But the tractors need more labour to push and some of them pose health risks due to the high vibrations from the handles.
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The four-wheeled tractor, whose Swahili derived name means hero, is easy to operate and can run better even on elevated topographies without manual support.
Shujaa has been improved from an Indian three-wheeled prototype, which was less effective in working in the African heavy soils like the black cotton, Apondi said.
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JKUAT is working in association with the Society for Research Initiative in Sustainable Technologies and Institutions, India to adjust the tractor to meet the local needs.
PHOTO: Excited farmers surround the JKUAT Shujaa tractor to learn more about it at Kabiru-ini Agricultural Society of Kenya Show Ground, Nyeri, on September 17, 2016. The tractor consumes six litres of diesel to till one acre. It is expected to cut tillage costs by more than five times. PHOTO BY LABAN ROBERT.