Beans Farming in Narok; Lessons from First and Second Visits

I told you how I called a friend of mine asking him to get me a piece of farm land for lease, and how, together with my business partner, we went, saw, liked, agreed and paid. About a week later we went back to plant. I know it sounds easy and painless, but far from it.

Our first mistake was to trust someone to get us ‘the perfect piece of land at the best lease price”. I will only tell you this; window shopping is good, even for a piece of land that you only intend to lease. You might spend a little more time making comparisons but it might save you a lot of money. For our case, as soon as we were done signing agreement and on our way to have a bite, another person approached us. He had a 35 acre piece, good location, tilled (though not with a chisel plough), and in fact not very far from the one we’d just paid for. He wanted Kes.4,000 per acre. Remember we had already paid Kes.4,500 per acre for the 32 acres. A few other people also called us with offers of Kes. 4,000 per acre but had slightly smaller farms. Now let’s do the math:-

  • 4,500 by 32 = 144,000
  • 4,000 by 35 = 140,000   .. we had lost 16,000 if you do a proper comparison.

So I will tell you to start early search and research if you intend to invest in farming. Research on availability of land and costs well. Location is very important. Get land that the owner stays close so as to have constant updates on progress of your crops. It is a vital security measure.

By all means sign a legal agreement with the leaser. Do not work on “good faith”. Two years ago a friend of mine, and worse a local of Narok leased land only to come during planting season and find someone else planting. This second person was not a local but he had agreement papers. My friend did not. It is also important to talk to people around and seek knowledge. Know your landlord a little, from other people, and ask about the land. There is so much to learn.

Our second visit was about planting, and it didn’t lack blunders. On arrival, we found a planter and harrow waiting. The planter guys wanted Kes.1300 and the harrow wanted Kes. 1500 per acre. My knowledge on costs of planter and harrow were Kes. 1100 and Kes. 1200 respectively. Now here we were, with much lower fuel prices at the time compared to the previous season, and guys wanted a lot more. We tried to bargain but the guys refused. Then I remembered that I used to have a friend who had all these machinery, and after calling him learned that in fact the harrow right in front of me was his. He told me the current price for harrowing was Kes.1250. The guys demanding more were just brokers trying to make a kill from “unknowing Nairobi based farming wannabes”. Well, their plan had failed. We ended up paying Kes.1250 for harrow but since my old friend’s planter was for wheat only, we did not have an alternative. We parted with the Kes. 1300 for planting. Again the lesson here is to know people, many people. Know the owners of the machinery and avoid as much as possible dealing with the brokers operating them. It will save you a fortune.

Remember also to do a good research on the seed type that grows best in the area you are farming. And by all means get the seeds early when prices are still low. You know how this things work; higher demand leads to price inflation. If we had bought seeds a week earlier we’d have saved Kes.600 on every bag. That’d be a cool Kes.6,000 on the 10bags. (So far we’d have saved 6000+16000=22,000)

The delay on the second day of planting was caused by a fault on one of the “arm(for lack of a better word)” of the planter. It needed welding. Our mistake however was that we had paid the planter guys all the money the previous evening, even though they had only done half the work. Well, we only did so because the owner called and requested that we give the driver all the money and promised they’ll be on the farm by 7am to finish up our job. It didn’t happen, as you know. But it is wise to only pay for a job done. At one time I stayed in Narok for 3days planting wheat on just 14acres after paying the guys before hand, only to get an old tractor that kept breaking down every half an hour. That however is a story for another day.

Now we are waiting for crop germination. I will share with you the photos of the crop at different stages when we visited, the joys and disappointments. There is also the interesting story of weeds and pests and what we used to try and control them, all in the next article; “Beans Farming in Narok; Germination, Weeds and Pest Control”.

Beans Farming in Narok; Second Visit_Planting

Five days after we paid for the land and left Narok with instructions to get us a harrow and planter, it rained heavily. Now, very wet soils are not easy to work on when planting, so, that first rain was good enough to propel us into action. We traveled on a Saturday to Narok, and arrived at around 10.30am. It is a two hour journey, if using private means of speed limits up to 100km/h. Public means take longer. 10.30am was a good time since the sun was out and the ground had dried a little, which is advantageous to the harrow and planter. For those who do not know, a harrow is a form of plough that is used to loosen soil just before planting. It breaks up and redistributes the soil surface in preparation of seedbed and field planting operations. A Planter(sometimes called a seeder), on the other hand is a machine used for placing your seeds inside soil (planting).

A Harrow _image courtesy of Land pride
A Harrow _image courtesy of Land pride
A Roller and Chisel Plough_Image courtesy of Ndume
A Roller and Chisel Plough_Image courtesy of Ndume
A Planter _ Image courtesy of Ndume
A Planter _ Image courtesy of Ndume

 

 

 

 

 

 

The prices we were told for harrowing ware 1500/acre and 1300/acre for a bean planter. However, from experience, these prices were exaggerated by brokers who thought they’d found a kill.

We hadn’t bought the seeds yet, so we went looking for seeds at the market and managed to get 7 bags of the variety we wanted (Wairimo), and 3bags of another variety (Nyayo). A bag of seeds was going at 6700 due to the high demand.

In 2014 I had planted beans on a 10 acre farm and had used 5bags which I bought at much lower prices . I was therefore expecting to use 15bags on this one. Since we couldn’t get the 15 immediately, we decided to start with what we had. We transported the 10bags to the farm.

The job started at around 12.30pm, the harrow having been given about an hour’s start-off advantage before the planter came in. The job went on well with no hitches, and by 7pm, we had finished harrowing and done about 15acres of planting. Darkness having set in, we had to call it a day and resume the next day, a Sunday. Only about four bags of seeds had been used on the 15acres. I was concerned about the ratios used, but was assured that it was the correct ratio for beans and I needed not to worry. I even told them how I’d used 5bags the previous year on a 10 acre piece but they said that manual planting was different from mechanized planting. After a long discussion, I decided to let go and hope for the best. That day we incurred unplanned costs on accommodation for the night.

We woke up early the next day with intentions of finishing the job early but the Planter guys let us down. They arrived at the farm at 12pm, and only after we had gone to look for them. Anyway, we were through with the job by 6pm, having used only seven bags on a 32 acre piece. I wasn’t satisfied with their explanation, but there wasn’t much I could do about it. We sold the remaining 3 bags at same price as we bought and left for Nairobi soon after.

So here is a summary of our costs for the second trip to Narok:

  • Fuel cost – 3000
  • Harrowing (1250 per acre) – 40,000
  • Planting (1300 per acre) – 41,600
  • Bean seeds (6700 per bag) – 67,000-20,100(we resold 3bags) – 46,900
  • Seed Transportation cost – 1000
  • Accommodation and food – 2500
  • Miscellaneous – 1000

Our total expenditure during second Visit was therefore 136,000/=

By the end of the second visit, we had learnt a lot of lessons about time, money and people; lessons that are very expensive to a young investors like us. The main reason for my story is for me to share those lessons so that fellow youth do not have to experience the same. That will be the subject of my next article; “Lessons from First and Second Visits”. Afterwards I will move on to tell you about the Third Visit.

 

Beans Farming in Narok 2015; First Visit

In march 2015, I asked a friend to get me and a business partner of mine a piece of land for lease in Narok so that we can do some farming, as usual. Farming is something I do every season, hence the statement ‘as usual’. So we got a good piece, 32 acres in size, at a place called Lamasharian (near Empopong Primary School), about 6km from Narok town. We got  good host(land lord), honest and straight forward. Of course this you only get to know after dealing with someone for sometime, as it is naive to have complete trust in someone you are meeting for the first time, especially hen it is on matters involving hundreds of thousands.

So we met, visited the location of land, agreed on a lease price and went to an advocates office with our witnesses to draw an agreement. Below is a breakdown of the costs (in Kenya shillings) we incurred on the first day:-

  • Fuel cost (to and fro Nairobi-Narok) – 2,000
  • Land leasing cost – (4500/acre) 144,000
  • Ploughing cost – (2,000/acre) 64,000
  • Advocates fee 1,000
  • Miscellaneous 1,000

Our total expenditure on the first day was therefore 212,000/=

The land was ploughed with a chisel tiller, known to break down the soil to a lot finer particles than the normal one. The finer chiseled soils retain water for longer and is a good strategy for areas with low rainfall like Narok. We found land already ploughed so just refunded the landlord the monies for tilling. After the deal was closed, we blessed it the Maa way, with mbuzi choma, and left for Nairobi after giving instructions to find for us a good Harrower and Planter in readiness for the planting day, soon as the first rains fall.

Our second Visit was a planting Visit. I’ll tell you about it in my next article; Beans Farming in Narok 2015; Second Visit.

 

 

Leila Chirayath Janah: Ending Poverty in the Digital Age

Leila Chirayath Janah: Ending Poverty in the Digital Age from TEDx Silicon Valley on Vimeo.

Samasource enables marginalized people, from refugees in Kenya to women in rural Pakistan, to receive life-changing work opportunities via the Internet. In parallel, we enable socially responsible companies, small businesses, nonprofits, and entrepreneurs in the US to contribute to economic development by buying services from our workforce at fair prices. http://www.samasource.org