- Manera Farm is perhaps the only private farm in the country that offers vocational training to farm equipment operators.
- Most tractor drivers on small and large-scale farms, according to Claudia, start as general labourers before training themselves.
- Dr Vitalis Kibiwot Ngelechei, a farm machinery expert from Egerton University, says a farm worker dealing with machines needs specialised knowledge on operation, settings and maintenance.
- One of the major impacts of poor maintenance is faster depreciation of the machine, which also disrupts planting, harvesting and spraying resulting to poor yields.
The eucalyptus trees along the busy Nakuru-Nairobi highway form a beautiful canopy that provide an enchanting environment.
At the end of the canopy, opposite the Delamere Estates, on the right side from Nakuru, an earth road leads to Manera Farm, some 2km from Naivasha town.
A huge gate ushers us into the 600 hectare farm owned by Claudia Torres Palao, a Peruvian, and her husband, Pierluigi Maggioni, an Italian.
Claudia, dressed in a light blue outfit, and a marching orange reflector jacket, is all smiles.
“You are now in Manera Farm,” she says warmly, making us feel at home.
Theirs is perhaps the only private farm in the country that offers vocational training to farm equipment operators.
The farm, which opened its doors to the public in October last year, is slowly becoming a preferred destination for persons seeking to get knowledge in operating farm equipment, among them fresh agriculture graduates, ordinary farmhands and farm owners.
Claudia and her husband have been in Kenya for years.
“I came into the country aged four, and I have been farming for the most of my life,” she offers, noting her husband and herself have more than 30 years’ experience working on commercial farms in Nyeri, Embu, Laikipia and Nakuru counties.
In Nyeri, they were volunteers at the Archdiocese of Nyeri while in Embu they were employed by the Catholic Diocese of Embu working under the Don Bosco project where tomatoes, French beans, pawpaws, mangoes, passion fruits and bananas are planted.
Their last farming venture was at the Naivasha farm growing French beans, baby corn and courgettes for export, but they exited due to destruction of the crops by wild animals that include buffaloes, zebras, hippos and gazelles.
“Having been in commercial farming for more than three decades, we witnessed the damages caused by drivers and realised that one of the major costs on the farm is repairing tractors and other equipment due to poor handling by untrained operators,” says Claudia, who is an agriculture graduate from Reading University in Britain.
AGRICULTURE SCHOOLS IN ITALY
She met her husband at Karemenu School of Agriculture in Nyeri, where he was the principal while she was a teacher.
Most tractor drivers on small and large-scale farms, according to her, start as general labourers before training themselves.
“But this is because the opportunities to train are limited; mostly the places where to train are inaccessible. Currently, there is limited training on tractors because what we have is schools for heavy earthmovers like caterpillars. We saw this gap and decided to turn it into a business.”
To start, they designed a course based on the curriculum of agriculture schools in Italy, where her husband also farmed.