George Natembeya Demonstrates How To Plough Using Bulls On His Farm In Kitale

Former Rift Valley Regional Commissioner George Natembeya in Blue overall demonstrates how cattle are used in ploughing farms in the Former Western Counties. Picture by David Musundi

‘’ I’m very happy to keep alive cattle sloughing which I saw many peasant farmers using then while I was growing up’’, Natembeya told The Weekly Vision in an interview in Saboti Sub County on Monday

By David Musundi

Former Rift Valley regional commissioner George Nyongesa Natembeya who was born 50 years ago when farmers in Kenya’s rural areas were using animals to plough farms has said that farming methods have drastically changed with the old form fading into the midst of time.

‘’When I was growing up I used to see our neighbours wielding scythes on the farms, some gathering grass using rakes. What has happened now that the traditional farming method is diminishing?’’, he asked. He says the traditional system of using cattle, especially in former western Kenya was so effective in those days, especially for those who were so poor and saw the use of a tractor to plough as a luxury.

Mr Natembeya whose parents were squatting and working on the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) farm in the now Endebes Sub County says those days it was only the ADC that was using tractors for farming. ‘’ I’m very happy to keep alive cattle sloughing which I saw many peasant farmers using then while I was growing up’’, Natembeya told The Weekly Vision in an interview in Saboti Sub County on Monday. The former administrator says peasant farmers in the villages are still in the category of agricultural workers who plough fields using cattle.

Cattle ploughing still has many advantages when compared to tractor ploughing. When tractors run over the soil it makes the substrate hard due to their sheer weight making water penetration difficult-George Natembeya

He says many people have however switched to tractor ploughing after the advent of mechanization which has been teamed up with the ‘’ modern farming’’ costs of maintaining cattle. ‘’ It is becoming an expensive affair maintaining cattle, farmers are finding it also difficult keeping cattle which are getting expensive to maintain’’, he said. However, Mr Natembeya says few farmers in western Kenya have decided to stick to the method of farming passed to them by their grandparents who were using two to four cattle in their possession to plough fields.

He says farmers still believe that the inherent advantages of cattle ploughing vis-à-vis tractor ploughing will last for up to another generation due to the skyrocketing prices of farm implements. The anthropologist graduate from the Nairobi University says cattle ploughing have certainly come down over the years. At the same time, he says lots of farmers still are opting for cattle ploughing as they are more interested in soil pulverization rather than concerned about the long duration needed for turning up earth/laying furrows.

The Weekly Vision’s North Rift correspondent caught up with Mr Natembeya who says he was taught the art of attaching the yoke and shaft to the cattle at appropriate positions putting into use the very same method he saw his father use on their farm

He says many of those farmers sell milk obtained from their cows to meet expenses for cattle maintenance though the prices of milk continue fluctuating. He says: that cattle ploughing still has many advantages when compared to tractor ploughing. Tractors when run over the soil make the substrate hard due to their sheer weight making water penetration difficult. On cattle ploughing, he says the footprints left by the animal itself will act as a ‘micro catchment’ conserving rainwater besides helping to plough as well as de-weed easier in fields where small-sized crops are grown.

The Weekly Vision’s North Rift correspondent caught up with Mr Natembeya who says he was taught the art of attaching the yoke and shaft to the cattle at appropriate positions putting into use the very same method he saw his father use on their farm. He says although generally considered a thing of the past, this age-old technology is still widely used in farming communities in former western Kenya, Trans Nzoia and other north Rift Counties.

‘’It is an affordable, sustainable technology; one that, given the ever-increasing cost of tractors, spare parts and diesel, is becoming more and more attractive’’, he quickly said.

He says a farmer using cattle to plough can carry out all farming activities as effectively as with a tractor. ‘’It may take longer, but he can still do all the activities on time, taking full advantage of the window of opportunity.

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