Management style helps to bond and cut down expenses

Friday January 30 2015
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Margaret Ruguru and her son Kevin Macharia with their harvest at their farm in Thika. They get over 300 eggs every day. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


According to experts, family farming is not only cost effective but also eases the day-to-day running of a farm.

Family members are cheaper to work with, saving on the cost of production.

Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM) programmes officer Jeff Kahuho says family farming forms a base for the children to become professional and commercial farmers when they grow up.

Kenyan education system, he adds, has not paid much attention to agricultural studies as a serious subject.

“In some schools, for example, students are punished by performing some agricultural practices like digging or clearing land. Such children develop a negative attitude towards agriculture and view it as a punishment, rather than a job that someone can enjoy and earn a living from,” notes Kahuho.

However, children who are brought up in farming families and are allowed to participate in the practice would have a positive attitude towards it and embrace it as a career of choice.


“If this was well adopted in Kenya, we would not have idle land and cases of unemployment, especially among the youth would reduce significantly,” observes Kahuho.

Instead of looking for other jobs, children born in families which have access to land would end up adopting and inheriting farming as a practice from their parents.

Food security would be higher because family members farming jointly would produce enough for themselves and sell the excess.


Dr Melle Leenstra, the First Secretary, Food Security and Economic Development at the Netherlands Embassy, says the model engages the farm owner as the manager and decision maker, with responsibilities being shared by children.

He notes not many families in Kenya engage in farming as a unit, with sometimes members sub-dividing land. This, he says, makes farming uneconomical.

“Any farmer needs a succession plan to pass over both skills and productivity to the next generation. The best way to do it is to involve family members,” he says.

Division of labour among family members, he adds, makes work easier for the overall manager as pressure that comes with overseeing every venture in the case of mixed farming eases.

“To make the business successful, it is good to reward your children, if possible pay them salaries, just as you would do to someone you have employed.”

He notes that the farm owner should pass knowledge concerning care for the soil, crops and animals to his children.

“This means knowing about plant and animal nutrition and health. They should know where to find information, what the market wants and how to choose inputs. They should know what costs they make and strive to minimise costs and optimise profit.”

The most important thing for a farmer, he adds, is to have a vision of building a commercial farm and not just using a piece of land to make some money.

If done well, Dr Leenstra says, family farming businesses can become so successful that members can go into agribusiness as full-time undertaking.