Smallholder potato farmers in Kenya stand to gain from a collaboration between Corteva Agriscience and the National Potato Council of Kenya that is meant to increase yields.
The partnership will introduce improved technologies and show farmers how to boost their potato yields using quality seed, resilient and improved varieties, pest and disease management, post-harvest management and good record keeping.
Since April 2020, seven demonstration plots have been set up in Kinangop, Ol Kalou, Mau Narok, Bomet Central, Kieni East, Kieni West and Ainabkoi sub-counties. More than 400 farmers have been trained on recommended practices such as soil testing services, apical cuttings technology, seed selection and use of quality varieties/certified seeds, crop nutrition, crop protection and spray service.
The potato value chain in Kenya has remained underdeveloped, even though it is a staple food, second only to maize. As a result, the country has been forced to import large quantities of potatoes, especially from Tanzania.
The sector contributes almost $30 million annually to the economy and employs about 3.3 million people, 800,000 of whom are smallholders. Kenyan farmers have an average output of seven tons per hectare, compared to 50 tons per hectare in other countries. By using improved inputs and techniques, farmers will be able to increase their potato yields to 20 tons per hectare.
Speaking during a farmers’ field day in Uasin Gishu County, Corteva Agriscience sales leader, crop protection in East Africa, Mr Francis Karanja, said: “We are collaborating to increase productivity, incomes, and sustainable farming practices of smallholders. The products and information we share help farmers to manage potato pests and diseases, incorporate the latest advances in sustainability and technology into their daily operations”.
“The technology we are bringing on board, which incorporates best agronomic practices, modern technology to provide scientific control of fungal diseases and safe use of chemicals is meant to increase the potato yields per hectare in the small holdings significantly.”
Mr Wachira Kagoungo, from the Potato Council of Kenya, said that the challenges facing potato farming in Kenya could be tackled through a Public Private Partnership (PPP) approach, bringing stakeholders in the industry and value chain together.
Farmers, he explained, continue to produce low yields and of poor quality due to a combination of factors, including poor quality seeds, poor use of technology and lack of expertise in disease and pest control.
“Our objective is to assist farmers to produce high yields per hectare, free of diseases and pests. Our role will be to mobilise farmers and other stakeholders in the potato value chain to benefit from this technology and other measures aimed at increasing smallholders’ incomes,’’ said Mr Kagoungo
According to the council, pests and diseases contribute to an 80 per cent reduction in production, which threatens improved seed availability and food security.