Kenya: Cheaper weed control

Some farmers jump to conclusions about chemicals being too expensive without taking the time to calculate the costs of not using the most efficient ways of farming. An article published in the African Executive in February 2007 describes how the weedkiller paraquat can increase farmers’ revenues. One farmer in Eastern Kenya, with a fifteen acre farm hired casual laborers to do manual weeding – until he suddenly realized how expensive it was. Here are the economics behind his thinking:
  • A casual laborer is paid Ksh. 250* (2.72 €) a day (including lunch and tea breaks).
  • For 15 acres, 5 workers are needed for 10 days: Ksh. 20,000 (218 €).
By the time the entire farm was weeded, weeds had already re-established where it was weeded first and that meant investing more time and money in weeding operations. In one growing season, he could spend on average Ksh. 50,000 (545€) on weeding alone. In 1998, a friend of his introduced him to the chemical Gramoxone, the commercial name of a paraquat-based product. Gramoxone is a very efficient herbicide and kills all weeds within hours after its application. A liter of Gramoxone which costs Ksh. 2,000 (21.8 €) can spray an acre of land or more and only one application is needed . Two people take at most 4 days to spray the 15 acre piece of land. By paying them Ksh. 250 (2.72 €) a day, and spending Ksh.2,000 (21.8 €) on Gramoxone per acre, he spends at most Ksh. 32,000 (350 €). The benefits of using Gramoxone can therefore be summarized in 3 points:
  1. Savings: Ksh.18,000 (195€) per season,
  2. Fewer days work
  3. Laborers are spared injuries and possible disfigurement from back-breaking hand weeding.
Read full article of the African Executive here *100 Kenya Shillings = 1.1 euros (exchange rate dated 10/3/07)