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Ways to maintain farm records

Geoffrey Rono in his greenhouse farm near Mara River Narok

Geoffrey Rono in his tomato greenhouse near Mara River, Narok. He has adopted bookkeeping in all his farming practices to help him track expenses, losses and profits.

Farmers keen on agribusiness can prevent losses worth millions, predict the future of their farming business, and time sales for the best pricing by adopting bookkeeping for their crop production in a way that helps them in decision making.

A Federal Polytechnic of Nigeria study on 155 small scale farmers in Nasarawa State found that 79 per cent of the farmers acknowledged the importance of farm records in knowing the worth of their farm, in planning budgets and in monitoring their financial progress.

For Geoffrey Rono, who, in 2012, lost some six million shillings from wheat farming on his 48 acres of land due to the lack of proper record keeping across his expenses and earnings, was forced to begin everything afresh, changing from wheat to hay production and greenhouse farming.

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He had to sell his tractor, which he used for cultivation, for Sh1.5 million, to begin again, with hay production, in 2014.

“By the end of 2013, I was unable to account for my wheat production expenses, all I noticed was that I could not plant the following season as the money I realised from selling wheat was not enough to buy fresh farm inputs,” said Rono.

“I felt totally finished to a point of committing suicide as I had never lost such a huge amount of money before.”

On sharing his ordeal, the area agricultural extension officer and fellow farmers advised him on the benefits of bookkeeping, which he has since adopted, as he has ventured into Boma Rhodes hay production and greenhouse tomato farming.

“I now use a 612-page hard book to record my production expenses, sales and timing of my crops, which enables me know when to plant, what to add at a given production level, and market trends on a daily basis,” said Rono.

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He currently earns about Sh2.8m net annual profit from hay sales, and Sh3.2m net income per season from his greenhouse tomato farming.

Beyond a note book, farmers are also moving to use technology-based methods such as mobile phone applications to run the bookkeeping on their farming activities.

Palmer Mureithi, who is an accountant by profession, is using a free mobile phone application called ‘My Wallet’ to run the bookkeeping on his dairy and banana farming in South Imenti, Meru County.

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He started using the app right from when he began farming in 2013 to enable him to best judge which direction to take his farming in future.

“I stated keeping my farm records five years ago, when I started banana farming. I want to see where my business will be by 2020 and so my records must be straight and up-to-date,” said Mureithi.

“Agribusiness is just like any other type of business, which requires recordkeeping to enable investors in the sector track their operations for proper judgments on the future of their farm production and sales.”

For My Wallet, one has to log in using personal credentials to access the app. It generates summaries of budgets, bills, expenses and incomes based on the spending and receipts keyed into the app, which records financial statements, and the date and time of every transaction.

“I do not find it hard to use the app because of my background in accountancy. Any transactions I make related to my farming business I key in properly with dates and time to enable me to retrieve the information anytime and anywhere to check on my performances,” said Mureithi.

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His investment capital in the banana and dairy farming has been over Sh2.2m, which he used to buy two mature Friesian cows and one Ayrshire cow, for around Sh120,000-Sh140,000 each, in October 2016. He now owns 10 cows, having later added five Friesian heifers of 6-18 months old, which he bought at Sh40,000-80,000 each.

Other farmers are using web based data management systems to keep their farming information, which they have signed up for and enter with log ins every time they want to feed in their data.

Zabdi Chumba, a graduate from Egerton University with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, is growing vegetables, and got introduced to Gordios Farm, which is an online data management system, by a farmer from South Sudan who uses the online service.

Users sign up for free, but need to have Internet access for each log in to add or check data.

“I registered at the beginning of last year after learning about it from a colleague. It has helped me improve on my record keeping as compared to the previous clipped foolscap papers I used,” said Chumba.

“After every day’s activities, I list everything including expenses and sales, then do my calculations from my computer. I then log in and feed all the information into the website, from where I can retrieve them any time I want.”

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The website, which he says was developed to help farmers practicing agribusiness, also recommends online content on agronomical practices, fertilizer types and usage, seed varieties and market information for farmers.

Based on his financial results, Chumba is currently growing kales, cabbages and indigenous vegetables, such as black night shade, cowpeas and spider plant, on his two acre plot, earning him over Sh480,000 per season.

                                                                                                                                                            

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