Indian Technology for Food Security in Kenya

March 17, 2019
Challenge Agriculture is an important source of income for the majority of Kenyans. About 75 per cent of the population earns all or part of its livelihood from the sector, which accounts for 18 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).1 Only 20 per cent of the country’s land is arable and maximum yields have not been reached in these areas. This means that considerable potential exists for productivity increases. Most farmers work without modern seeds and technology or adequate financial or extension services. Additionally, the sector is the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and extreme weather events. Enhanced temperatures and change in precipitation regimes have led to reduced suitability of agro-based enterprises, reduced productivity of crops, livestock and fisheries due to temperature and water stresses, and rising production costs. Towards a Solution To address this challenge, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) partnered with India’s Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions (SRISTI) and the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) to promote food security in Kenya through the transfer of affordable, innovative Indian farm and food processing machinery. SRISTI has extensive experience in promoting grassroots innovations for inclusive and sustainable development. The innovations promoted by SRISTI in the agriculture sector are low-cost, affordable, flexible and easily adaptable. The overall aim of the programme is to improve agricultural productivity and food security by fostering mechanization among smallholder farmers using Indian grassroots innovations and by promoting the use of machinery in agriculture to reduce power for increasing agricultural productivity and extend the shelf life and drive up the value addition of produce, which spoils easily after harvest. The project enhanced climate resilience in Kenya by improving local agricultural productivity and food security through replicating India’s success in adopting grassroots innovations for farm mechanization. Three types of low-cost mechanization and processing equipment were transferred to Kenya, including a motorcycle-driven ploughing machine (also termed ‘Bullet Santi’), a manual seed cum fertilizer dibbler and a multi-purpose food processing machine. SRISTI and JKUAT demonstrated and disseminated these technologies and initiated local manufacturing of some of the technologies to ensure long-term sustainability. Knowledge-sharing and practical learning took place among SRISTI, JKUAT and local stakeholders in Kenya in three stages. First, JKUAT and Kenyan smallholder farmers provided SRISTI with insights on local circumstances, needs and constraints regarding agricultural activities and local coping strategies. Second, SRISTI and JKUAT demonstrated the proposed farm machinery, facilitated trial uses and solicited feedback on user experiences from smallholder farmers in 12 counties (Bomet, Bungoma, Busia, Kakamega, Kisumu, Kitui, Machakos, Makueni, Migori, Nairobi, Siaya, and Vihiga). Third, SRISTI and JKUAT, in consultation with local stakeholders, particularly Numerical Machining Complex (NMC) Limited, made necessary modifications to the machine design to ensure that local requirements were met. Modified machines were then tested again by farmers in selected counties and training was provided on machine operation and maintenance. To improve the suitability of the motorcycle-driven ploughing machine and seed dibbler to local conditions in Kenya through improved design, JKUAT and SRISTI organized a two-week training in India for nine mechanics from various counties. In addition, lead farmers in all the counties where the technologies have been placed (Bungoma, Kakamega, Machakos, Makueni, and Migori) were trained on the functional operation of the machines. Improvements included changing the design of the motorcycle ploughing machine from three wheels to four. Kenyan technicians were trained in India to repair and maintain the machines. This training is now being put into practice by one or two technicians in each county. JKUAT and SRISTI are now identifying local entrepreneurs to manufacture the machinery and provide maintenance services and are supporting them with the development of a bankable business plan. JKUAT is also engaging government schemes, rural banks and microventure finance institutions to facilitate credit and financial support for smallholder farmers to purchase the machinery. JKUAT has worked with the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture’s Committee on Mechanization throughout the project. The Ministry is considering options to scale up the project at both county and national levels. In addition, standards for low-horsepower tractors (10- 30 hp) have been developed by a team composed of JKUAT, NMC Limited and the Kenya Bureau of Standards to enable production of similar units locally. The project can be upscaled to neighbouring East African countries with similar terrain and climatic conditions, as in the 12 counties in which the technologies were tested. Sustainable Development Goal target(s): 2.1,2.4 Countries/ territories involved: India, United States of America Implementing entities: SRISTI, JKUAT, USAID Project status: Completed Project period: 2013-2015 URL of the practice:; Contact: Name: Prof. Christopher Kanali, JIKUAT Email: