Mechanizing Agriculture

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Ndung’u gives solutions to many daunting tasks in the farm with modern chaff cutters and mixers

A jack of all trades and a master of all is what would best describe Peter Ndung’u who is a keen enthusiast in agricultural mechanics. His intriguing journey began in the 1990’s when after attempting several technical skills among them tailoring, carpentry and masonry, Ndung’u finally landed his acumen in making agricultural machines out of iron sheets. His beginning was rocked by numerous challenges that were majorly financial but all along his will was never deterred. Today he is an exceptional expert of modern agricultural machines and his belief in value has made him outstanding in the business.

“Most mechanics assemble raw materials of the poorest quality, and hire the cheapest welding tools and this is a major cause of business failure for many people in this business.” Ndung’u explains.
Mbupurs Engineering works, which he started in 2002, has innovated machines such as potato peelers, vegetable chopper machines, stock crushers, maize shellers, chaff cutters and posh mix, which is a multipurpose machine.

Visionary ambition
They say, will is sufficient drive. Peter best knows this as along his journey, he would lose all but retain the will to pursue his vision. For a man who came from a humble family, there were only a few options if any. He took a course in metal works but even with the skill, there was no luck coming his way, especially since he would require capital to start up a metal work business.
He therefore thrust his feet into looking for a means to earn a living. With nowhere to begin, he had to work for his sister who at the time owned a tailoring shop. He was employed to manage the rest of the staff, and his inborn skill in handicraft came in handy as he doubled as a manager as well as a designer.
As is always the case however, working for family does not always come with professionalism and as a result, he would earn less than the rest of the staff. “My sister would pay me nine hundred shillings while the rest of the staff pocketed fifteen hundred shillings and above,”He says. This was despite being the one handling the most workload.
After a while he resolved to quit to go and try his luck elsewhere. He ventured into a metal box making business. With only four hundred shillings, he set out to buy the materials he needed to make one metal box. Getting customers was however a huge challenge, insurmountable at the time as people did not believe in buying such items just from an ordinary man.
“People would not buy metal boxes from me because they always believed such items can only be manufactured in a factory. However with time they came to appreciate locally made equipment,” he adds.
After staying for four months without making a single sale, he began helping a friend who was in the business of crushing fillers for dairy feed.
This inculcated in him the idea of making a machine that can crush fillers and that is how the idea of making agricultural machinery crossed his mind. He haboured this idea for a very long time but had one impediment; lack of capital.
To raise funds for his business, he took a loan to start dairy cattle farming with a long term plan to start a machinery enterprise from the proceedings of his agribusiness.
He was lucky enough to get a tender from a school to sell his dairy milk and from the savings of that small exchange, he was able to purchase the raw materials required to make one machine.

Hurdles
His idea was finally kicking off but he encountered challenges in his quest to compete with the then dominant machine manufacturers. He could barely find skilled welders to hire for his machines and those that he came across, did very poor quality of welding.
As a result, the machines he made, would after a very short time require repair, which for him, was detrimental to his business. This created in him an urge to train youth and equip them with basic mechanical engineering skills.
At the beginning, he targeted the form four leavers, to train them hands on lessons on basic processes such as welding before they could join colleges for formal education. In 2015 he had over 15 youths on the programme, that he called ‘incubation’.This initiative was received cordially. He has overtime incorporated technology in his training. “Today we are going digital.” He quips.
Another challenge experienced by Peter was getting farmers to believe in his products. The notion then was that all longlasting and efficient machines can only come from the factories. This meant that he had to devise ways to have the farmers informed that the factories begin with individuals just like himself.
He had to demystify the concept of industrialization as a skill that any interested individual can learn. As part of this process, Peter attended a conference in Nakuru where he was awarded a certificate of engineering and this enhanced farmers’ credibility in his products.
“When I came home with a certificate from the conference, people grew interest in what I was doing. I attended more agricultural workshops and came home with ideas that attracted more people into my business.” Peter recalls.
Future prospects
Ndung’us’ vision is not limited to making agricultural machines his entire life. Instead, he envisages a future with many skilled young people, who can make even more sophisticated designs of such machines and eke a living out of the business.
It is no doubt an achievable goal as he is already mentoring a group of youths to establish such enterprises, in the ever growing technological era.
Like several other self -driven entrepreneurs, Ndung’u observes that the young people are immersed in quest for formal knowledge with very little hands on experience on the knowledge they acquire.
This he says is reflected in the numerous import of expertise in almost all sectors of our economy, yet the market is flooded with educated youths searching for the same jobs being given to foreigners.
Ndung’u attributes his continued success to an innate desire to improve the lives of people and make farm activities easier. Looking back he feels that his deep seated desire to mentor the young people and inspire them to venture into more practical skill acquisition has been consistent and everywhere he went, he tried to actualize this dream.
This has no doubt informed his slogan which is to uplift youths heading vision 2030 through free training.

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