Try this and keep your farmhand for long


Posted by Joseph Macharia 10 months ago



Labour at the farm is an important input, without which production cannot take place. Human labour is employed in a casual or permanent basis depending on the size of the farm, output and revenue generated. Casual labour in Kenyan farming is very runny; with many reported cases of Farmhands absconding duty, leaving animals unfed for days or crops unattended to and leading to massive losses of produce and time to farms.

The reasons for such errant behavior by farmhands can be attributed to these reasons;

  • There is little investment in showing the them ropes of the trade. They are usually given a work schedule and left to their own devices. Often, they struggle within; whether they are doing the work as it is or not.
  • Farm enterprise owners or the bosses do not show concern for their general welfare. Often, foul and demeaning language is used on them, leaving them hating the job to be done. 
  • They have no idea how they fit into the overall vision of the farm. They do not see themselves as integral and value adding to the achievements to be made in the farm, after all, their presence in the farm is temporal. 
  • Most likely, the farmhand has worked in other farms, and carries with him/her the experience (both good and bad) from past engagements. These are transferred onto the new job.

Farm enterprise owners ought to take the job of the farmhand seriously as it is a matter of life and death. If handled badly, animals die and crops are destroyed, resulting in massive losses.

Here are ten guidelines to assist get the best from your farmhands


Put a recruitment processin place. for Do not just hire anybody who shows up looking a job. Look into their past. Some could have criminal records that were not resolved or a history of laziness and mediocre performance. One way to deal with this is to ask for letters of recommendations from an immediate employer or use referrals from farmers with similar enterprise.

 Farm vision

As part of your employment procedures, include a probation period of at least one month.  During this period, the farmhand internalizes the vision and values of the farm. These should be written down to give it the seriousness it deserves.

 Work plan

After laying out long term and short term targets, work on a work plan with the farmhand on the specific activities to be done to achieve the identified targets. Map out daily, weekly and monthly work plans, while prioritizing based on the farming cycles for crops and livestock. Without a realistic work plan, the farmhand will devise one and find excuses to support it.


Lead by example, with a clear chain of command. Farmhands do not like blurred structures where everybody issues orders and work schedules are not predictable. Most important, get time to be in the farm, roll up your sleeves and work. If it is making silage or weeding vegetables, pumping water, vaccinating chicken, do it. Show passion and practical involvement. Do not just show up at harvest time. If you show some level of disconnect from the farm, that will be used against you when opportunity presents itself.


Every human being needs compensationfor their labour, and the value they bring to the farming enterprise and the country’s quest for food and nutritional security. The basis for a salary for farm workersis the minimum wage(lowest earnings to be paid to a worker in Kenya Kenya Gazette Supplement No. 107.



Per Month 

(KSh. Cts)

Per Day (KSh. Cts)


Unskilled employee




Stockman, herdsman, watchman




House servant or cook




Farm foreman




Farm clerk




Senior foreman




Farm artisan




Tractor driver




Combine harvester driver




Lorry driver or car driver




Besides basic pay, reward when targets are met. Give opportunities for trainings and exposure visits to farms that focus on similar value chains. If your farm does vegetables, then pick a farm that has routine practices that you would like to adopt in your farm.


(vi) Nutrition, Housing and Health care 

Provide good nutrition to the farmhand or agree on a way of supplementing his/her food requirements. In addition, make sure the living quarters are decent, especially for those farmhands who reside with their family in the farm. And, enroll the farmhand in health insurance. The enhanced NHIF cover should do it. As part of the working conditions, provide protective clothing (apron, gumboot, gloves, cap) and the right tools.

(vii) Family

For those who live far from their families, make provisions for them to visit and spend time with their wives/husbands and children. Adults have needs; you do not want your farmhand to be known as the bull of the village who does not discriminate people’s wives! 




Do not underestimate the power of a neighbor or a relative to mess things up or provide some unnecessary distraction to your farm workers. The urge to make a quick buck at a neighbour’s farm can be very tempting, especially for a farmhand with extended family responsibilities or a youth under pressure from peers to fit in; acquire a new phone, get cash for betting, buy trendy outfits and so on.


Use appropriate technology to quicken work in the farm. Instead of your farmhand using a panga to cut napier grass into small pieces for your 5 cows, invest in a fodder chopper to save on time. Buy basic implements like wheelbarrows to reduce backbreaking work on the farm. Also, train on the use of these machines to reduce the risk of accidents. Your farmhand will be happier.

Change is as good as rest

Do not let your farm be a prison. Every human being needs rest, for the body to recover, build and for the soul to re-energize. It is virtually impossible for a human being to engage in hard-labour 7 days a week. At some point, ‘mwili inakataa’ (the body refuses). Put in place contingency measures for your farmhand to get time off to relax, visit friends or just be out of the farm. It could be weekly or quarterly depending on the demands of the farm. Just make sure it happens; whether conditionally or unconditionally is something that can be agreed on between the farmhand and the farm enterprise owner. 

The Regulations of Wages and Conditions of Employment Act, Cap 229 states that the general working hours are 52 per week. The normal working hours usually consist of 45 hours of work per week; Monday to Friday 8 hours each day and 5 hours on Saturday. Be guided by the law and be considerate.

The farm, like any organize needs systems to run its operations smoothly. Farming is a labour intensive practice. Keeping the work force accountable, motivated to deliver and rewarded for the resultant value works well for the farming enterprise and its labour force. As Ralph Waldon Emerson said “Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.”


What experiences have you had with your farm employees? Share with us via email or leave a comment below.

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