Peter Okuta, a rice farmer at West Kano in Kisumu smiles shyly as he looks at the bumper harvest from his one-acre rice farm.
Together with other farmers, they feel the excitement in the air as they ferry hundreds of rice sacks with their stores bursting with sack loads of the grain.
The growers attest this has been made possible after the introduction of Massey Ferguson 2168 combine harvester, a year ago, with the satisfaction of reaping benefits of the tedious process involving rice farming.
Through the swampy rice belt, the machine reaps the crops massively, cuts, thresh and clean the grain using rotating blades, wheels, sieves, and elevators.
While the chaff and the stalks spurt from a big exit pipe at the back and fall back down onto the field.
Behind the machine is a man whose work is to collect the harvest in sacks, tie them well and drop them in the field to be picked by other farm laborers.
Okuta recalls how the manual hand-harvesting process brought him great losses at each harvest.
The farmers used to spend an average of six to seven days using threshing racks either themselves or using animals for trampling rice after using reapers to cut and lay the crop in a line.
Okuta could employ an average of 12 people and pay them Sh 10,000 for the manual process from which he harvested only ten sacks.
However, he attests that he currently spends Sh 7,000 to hire the machine with an average of 25-30 sacks harvested in less than 45 minutes.
“After starting to use the machine to harvest my rice the outcome has been incredibly good,” Okuta said.
He shows me the scars he bore on his hands from years of using the manual process Okuta indicates he had suffered a lot and feels relieved and contented with the technology in the paddy field.
Dickson Litenye another farmer is also exited with the arrival of the combined rice harvester, that he says has helped them more than doubled their harvests, with 81 farmers on the 162 ha rice field seeing a significant drop in post harvest losses.
“Before we used to harvest little from the land but now an acre generates an average of 30-50 sacks and everyone is contented,” Litenye said.
While stating the challenges Litenya cited how birds could ruin crops while using manual processes and heavy rains that still destroy a bigger chunk of the crop
He also complained of lack of a ready available market-making farmers life unbearable:
“Earlier we could earn Sh3,000 per suck but with increasing harvest, it goes for Sh2,500 or less because of the surplus production.
According to the Kano West scheme Water Users Association (WUA) chairman Jared Odoyo, the 2,230 acre rice field has a lot of potential which has been demonstrated by the combine harvester.
Last year the scheme produced 6000 metric tons of rice compared to previous years. The Agritech combine harvester could help farmers produce an extra 3000 tons of the crop.
“This is a welcome move and farmers are really applauding it, our living standards have greatly improved we are growing happier,” he said.
He noted that the rice harvester has cut down the harvesting time and significantly reduced post - harvest loses that previously amounted to 10% of the total harvest and that the harvester is pocket-friendly to hire.
The proprietor and founder of Agrifarm Solutions operating the machine Murtaza Zavery said the two machines working in the fields have double crushing capacity unlike other combine harvesters in the country.
“The paddy is extremely clean and basically it is a more progressive machine. If the harvested crop is taken for milling, it’s more result-oriented,” he said.
The combine harvesters were Acquired from FMD East Africa at Sh3 million each, and were launched in Mwea and tried in Bunyala before being brought to Kisumu.
Zavery explained the machine has been developed over time with technicians taking three months to make it suitable for the terrain in the region.
Currently it is working at 380mm height making it effective in the paddy fields of Ahero and West Kano.
”There are minimum chances of bogging down or having challenges finishing the farms,” he said.
The machines spent 45 minutes or less in an acre of land with plans underway to bring two more machines.
Zavery gave an example of a farmer who used to harvest 10 to 15 bags of rice on an acre of land but now gets 35 bags “and could not believe her eyes” when her crop was harvested in February.
South West Kano produce a non-aromatic IR variety of rice.
The schemes with a total area under irrigation stand at 13, 098 acres, owned by 7, 870 farmers;
The schemes are able to produce 31, 435 metric tons of paddy rice every season, valued at Sh1.4 billion.