By Gift Briton
As part of plan to popularize agricultural mechanization services in Kenya, a Kisumu-based youth group, has been awarded a brand new John Deere 5050D tractor after emerging the winner in a competition organized by Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) in collaboration with American agricultural machinery manufacturer John Deere and its dealer Mascor Kenya Limited.
Kowuor Central Village Youth Group, based in Ahero Sub-County, beat 85 other groups in a contest targeting groups with members aged between 18 – 35 years where participants were required to not only present a business plan detailing how they will use the tractor to run a mechanization business but also to be a registered group in Kenya with an involvement in agriculture for at least three years.
According to John Macharia, AGRA’s Kenya Country Manager, Kowuor Central Village Youth Group presented an outstanding business plan with a clear strategy for transforming the tractor into a profitable business, all while increasing the uptake of mechanization in their region.
Despite agricultural mechanization being a key driver to food system growth, Macharia indicates that it has been slow to develop in Africa. Thus, he emphasized the need for African countries to promote agricultural mechanization, noting that despite that Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania had the same number of tractors as India in 1960, they failed to keep up the pace in uptake with India now having 100 times more tractors in use.
“Africa’s agriculture sector is the least mechanized in the world, partly due to the local unavailability of tractors and other implements, as well as inadequate financing. Working through youth agri-small and medium enterprises(SMEs), some mechanization services can be availed closer to where they are required,” Macharia said.
The same was reiterated by John Deere’s Divisional Sales Manager for East Africa, Nel Stephan, noting that the group met all the criteria for a win with a clear articulation of their growth plan through the next five years and beyond. “Theirs is a social enterprise with clear benefits for members and their community,” he noted.
Moreover, Kowuor Central Village Youth Group’s chairperson, Dickens Muga, said the tractor will transform the business by increasing their capacity to serve more farmers, adding that “We already have an existing clientele but have been unable to serve them due to a lack of adequate machinery. It would have taken us quite some time to buy a new tractor out of our profits, and we see this winning as critical in taking our business to the next level.”
Furthermore, Kisumu County Executive Committee Member for Agriculture, Irrigation, Livestock and Fisheries, Gilchrist Okuom, also highlighted the critical role of mechanization in increasing efficiency and productivity in crop production. He reiterated the significance of mechanization in onboarding more youth into the agriculture space and described the initiative as a milestone in his government’s efforts to avail mechanization services to all farmers.
He proposed that his Department would have Kowuor Central Village Youth Group as the County’s Mechanization Champions and pledged to help build the capacity of the leadership of the group in how to profitably use the tractor. Okuom also appreciated John Deere and AGRA for the initiative and appealed to other partners and entrepreneurs to come up and help fill in the gap by offering mechanization services across Kisumu County.
The John Deere AGRA competition follows a recent partnership between AGRA and John Deere to support successful mechanization service providers based on the John Deere S.M.A.R.T Model. Under the partnership, AGRA supports SMEs in acquiring business skills and financial management for growth, whilst John Deere, through its dealer network (including Mascor), supports in operator training, technician development, after-sales services, and equipment financing.