In 2013, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), in partnership with SRISTI initiated a program aimed at replicating the Indian success in the adoption of frugal grassroots innovations for farm mechanization in Kenya. Under this program, three types of low-cost mechanization and processing equipment to Kenya viz the Bullet Santi, Multipurpose Food Processing Machine and the Seed and Fertilizer Dibbler were selected for technology transfer to Kenya.

The technologies with adapted to local condition through an elaborate three year long adaptive research process.

In the meanwhile, capacities of all major stakeholders like Jua kalis, women’s groups, farmers’ groups, mechanics, fabricators, engineers as well as distributors were built. The project has succeeded securing standards for Shujaa, the four-wheel tractor.

The first orders for Shujaa have arrived and are being pursued through Alabaster Research and Technologies.The food processing machine has augmented the income of several women. The seed drill provides a low cost alternative to the drudgery filled process for manual planting.  The report summarizes key achievements and lessons from SRISTI’s four and a half year intervention in Kenya.

Proactive farmers who have benefited from Shujaa: James Kitolo and Willy Mwololo

A preliminary model of Shuja was given to James Kitolo, a mechanic and a farmer in May 2016. James used the tractor for less than two years. In this time he demonstrated the use of the tractors in and around Kimutwa village in Machakos. With the tractor, he had farmed on 72 hectares of land till the end of the project period. This has reduced the time needed for land preparation by half.

For an acre of land, a farmer used to take 3-4 days with an ox. Shuja plows 2 acres in a day including the time for transport to farm and attachment/changing of implements. Draft animal driven farming in Kenya requires 2 to 3 people. Kitolo charges 2000 per acre for farm work. With the rent he recovers the costs for maintenance, fuel and labor for operating the tractor.

In January and February 2017, the region was going through a dry spell. Kitolo’s tractor in provided much need respite. With a 0.5 ton trailer attached, Kitolo transported about 20000 liters of water to 30 households. The tractor at Kitolo’s place has also been a critical means of providing farm inputs. It has also been used to transport firewood for cooking and timber for constructing cowsheds.

In the two years, Kitolo not only made a very good use of the tractor but he also illustrated a successful revenue model. Kitolo would recover the costs of  maintenance and repair of the tractor from the income he generated by renting out the tractors. Kitolo also repaired other project tractors whenever any breakdown occurred.

The final design of Shujaa was handed over to Kitolo was testing and servicing. James also developed new disc plows for the use in the new tractors.

Willy Mwololo Muindi is a farmer from Mbembani village in Machakos county who occasionally borrows the minitractor from his brother, James Kitolo in Kimutwa, three kilometers from Mbembani.  Willy lives with his wife Cecelia. They have 5 children, all of whom live in Nairobi. However, they do come over to help in farm work when the need arises. This is a situation in large parts of the Ukambani (SA2) region of Kenya. Young people have moved to more lucrative jobs in the cities leaving agriculture to their middle aged parents. Often, there is just the mother who tends to the farm while the rest of the family is involved in work outside the village.

Willy and his wife grow cowpeas on their land which totals to 15 acres (6 hectares) of these 10 (4 hectares) acres are in cultivation. Willy has used the Shujaa minitractor on his land. He has plowed 7 acres of land using Shujaa. He has also performed weeding on a land of 1 acre. In addition, he has used Shujaa to carry, in total, 5 tons of manure and 20 tons of firewood over a distance of 1 km and 4 tons of firewood over a distance of 3 km.  He claims that while doing all these operations, the 8 liter diesel tank of Shujaa lasted a week.

Cow peas are his main crop. He sells peeled cow peas at 1 dollar per kg. He has recently started interculturing the cow pea crop with sunflower. A significant part of the sunflower is used as cattle feed. However, if there is enough production, he borrows an oil press from KALRO and sells sunflower oils to oil companies. Last season he produced 180 kilos of sunflower seeds. He sold them for USD 1600 earning a profit of USD 500.  He claims that because of the small size of the tractor, it was effectively used to pluck out weeds in his farm which already had two standing crops. Since, the tractor was leased out to him for a short time he couldn’t finish the weeding process. However, the differences in the sunflower growth in parts weeded with the tractor against those not weeded were starkly visible.

On asking why bulls were not used for this process, he replies that the bulls do not consistently work for a long time. Moreover, bulls require two laborers. This and the cost of feeds for the oxen make them an expensive proposition. He also added that the work the tractor did in his farm would require 2 to 4 oxen. Larger tractors charge forty dollars for an acre. Shujaa,  he says,  is much cheaper especially when doing light farm work.

Cecelia who often drives the tractor for transporting manure and firewood claims the tractor is easy to control and handy for several of her daily farm tasks. 

She said before the tractor became available, they would have to transport the manure from the cowshed to the farm using a wheelbarrow which could only carry twenty kilos at a time. After a few trips, she would get tired and for the rest she would use chemical fertilizers. The cost of these inputs was about KSH 10,000 (USD 100) and these would have to be replenished after every two years.  Using Shujaa, Willy, Cecelia and their eldest son transported 5 tons of manure to their farming leading to considerable savings in their farm inputs. It also helped her to transport farming equipment.

Cecelia claims that the tractor does not scare her largely due to its small size and other women in the neighborhood farms were also excited about how the tractor performed.

Willy Mwololo took initiative and explained to his neighbors about the benefits of the Shujaa. He even called for farmers meeting with SRISTI team to demonstrated the tractors, train the women on driving the tractors, as well as sensitize the farmers on the benefits of the tractor. Willy Mwololo is currently pursuing farmers to collect expressions of interest. He is willing to make investments to scale up his brother’s workshop to be able to supply to as many farmers as possible.

Multipurpose food processing machine aiding women’s empowerment in Kibera

 There are women taking part in social change the world over. Some of these stories come from the heart of Kibera, the largest slum in Kenya and the second largest in the world. Ninety-one percent of breadwinners in Kibera are women. Many men in the area are addicted to alcohol and miraa (Khat, Catha edulis). This has left the women with the task of single-handedly fending for their families. This could possibly also explain the level of crime and gender-based violence in the region.

Zena Ali Abdallah happens to be among the many women who have made efforts to change the situation around them. Zena is a woman of Nubian origin who comes from Karanja Road, in Nairobi County. Zena is a housewife, and a mother to four children. She has a very supportive grandmother, who is struggling with her health. 

Though due to financial constraints, Zena could only study till secondary school, she undertook several short courses  and  trainings  that equipped her for the good work she was about to embark on.

Zena co-founded, a women group called Mchanganyiko in 2004. The  members  own  a greenhouse in Kibera. They sell the vegetables planted therein to the community. It is also a source of food to the children in the school which they run.

A food processing machine was given to the group towards the end of 2014. Mchanganyiko is a meeting place for several other groups. Therefore, Zena’s group not only makes juice for themselves, they also charge the other groups for using the machine. Though the revenue generated through machine varies on the production, some ladies had reported to have earned on average KSH 6000 monthly using this machine. The current model is that the ladies come and make the juice and give rent to Mchanganyiko. Some of these ladies sell the juice to wedding parties and events which generates a lot of revenues. Due to the network of Zena and the openness of Mchanganyiko, about 285 women have access to the fruit processing machine.

Mchanganyiko members also have to pay a token amount which goes to the Mchanganyiko funds. Using these funds Zena has brought a large refrigerator where she stores the juice with carbonated drinks. With her work Zena won a fellowship from National Institute for Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development (NIESBUD) fellowship to come to India and get training on entrepreneurship. She also interacted with the innovator of the food processing machine during her stay in Noida.

Zena is driven to make Mchanganyiko a sustainable enterprise and has developed a business plan towards the same. She urges the women of Kibera also to take advantage of the opportunities around them as opposed to waiting to be employed. They got together and arranged for development of their own brand to be marketed in retail stores in Nairobi. They are await KEBS and health certifications to launch their brand.

The dibbler could not achieve much progress due to a series of technical challenges. However, a group from Banana in Kiambu were able to use it to plant cowpeas over about 2 acres of land.  Similarly, Bukura ATC farmers were able to use the dibbler extensively by making some modifications. The role of Graham Okello in replication and modification of the dibbler is critical. He was able to rectify the seed crushing problem in the dibbler through innovative modifications. The modified dibblers have been lent to farmers in Migori. Graham Okello’s Jua Kali center was among the first to replicate the original dibbler. In Eastern Kenya, Boniface Mwangi from Wote had replicated 5 dibblers which were sold to farmers.

The new seed drill was introduced in Machakos. Eunice John, one of the users, finished about an acre of planting in day. She claimed, she could work for eight hours without getting as much tired. Since the planting season was almost over, more acreage has not been achieved with this technology.


The team was able to get 96 hectares (240 acres) of area under improved agriculture by means of Shujaa against a target of 200 ha. This was because the tractors were not ready for a long time of the project length. When they were finally employed only, in only two places the tractors were being used actively (Kimutwa and Wote). In addition, the fruit processing machines served a total catchment of 810 ha (2025 acres). These machines were given to the beneficiaries for free without them having to pay rent for the machine. Therefore, this data has to be seen in the right perspective. There seems to be a lack of risk taking incentive in the Kenya farmers, an issue that has been explained in the detail in the next chapter. Table 4 illustrates the achievement of the project on the USAID FTF Indicators.

When the project started, there was no supporting ecosystem for technologies targeted at small farmers. The team observed that though there were large orchards in some regions, there were few options to add value to the produce.

Old women farmers would toil hard in the sun to drop seeds. There had been no concerted effort to make affordable and frugal technologies available to the smallholder farmers.

Most importantly, earlier when technologies were introduced, there were few attempts for indigenization and adaptation of the technologies as per the local context. Often, technologies were thrust onto the farmers without a scope for understanding their concerns and making adjustments as per their needs.

The team also learned quite early while interacting with the local agricultural experts from JKUAT and Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Institute (KALRO) that in earlier attempts technologies were introduced without any attempt to build a supporting ecosystem so that many stakeholders in this ecosystem feel a sense of ownership about the technologies. Of course, the fact that having an ecosystem of repairmen and suppliers of spares ensures that in case of breakdown the parts and skills to repair are available.



Sr. No.




Number of hectares under improved technologies or management practices

900 ha

96 by Shujaa

810 by FPM


Number of farmers and others who have applied new technologies or management practices


Number of men


Number of women



Number of individuals who have received short term agricultural sector productivity or food security training


Number of men


Number of women



Number of  Machines given to Kenya