Targeted training and innovations in potato production significantly boost farmers’ yield and income
What was the market situation?
In Kenya, potatoes are a key staple food, second only to corn. In the Kenya Highlands, potatoes are grown on smallholdings ranging from one to four acres, with the overall potato acreage estimated at around 160,000 ha. There is, however, a significant gap between the current output average of 8 – 15 tons per ha and the yield potential of around 50 – 60 tons per ha. Over the past 15 years, the Kenyan government has been investing in the potato sector to increase output per hectare and potato farmers’ incomes.
In the middle: Kaituyu Athanasious, Smallholder Training & Extension Manager Agrico East Africa
What was the solution?
In an exemplary private-public partnership, a consortium was established to reach out to potato farmers. The basic fertilizer program was modified using innovations from the project partner YARA East Africa, a fertilizer supplier. Control of pests and diseases was optimized through Bayer’s latest innovations. Agrico East Africa supplied certified potato seed tubers of new potato varieties. Quipbank Trust Ltd. supported the farmers with modern plowing, harrowing and ridging equipment. And last but not least, Siraji Sacco stepped into the project with micro-financing support. Moreover, the whole project was implemented with the help of great support from Agricultural Extension Services staff from county governments.
Demonstration plots established on half-acre holdings in Narok, Merua and Molo Counties were used as a live classroom to train a total of 2,000 potato farmers in certified seed use and the correct application of fertilizer and crop protection products to improve yields. The benefits of the training and innovations were measured for three different farmer groups:
- The basic farmer who received no support.
- The advanced farmer who planted his farm-saved seed and received coaching, agronomic training, and some fertilizer and crop protection innovations.
- The connected farmers who received coaching, training and the full innovative input of certified seed, fertilizer and crop protection products, as well as a secured selling connection via the project retail partner Carrefour.
Details of all the input costs, yields and market prices were collected to calculate farm income and profitability.
This Kenyan potato project illustrates the strengths of public-private cooperation to improve potato farmers’ yield and income. The adoption of innovations and favorable value chain development paid off with increased marketable yields as the foundation for higher incomes and increased food security. An analysis of the input costs revealed that adopting the innovations reduced the production cost of 1 kg of marketable potatoes from 30 KES to 11 KES.
The project results generated a lot of positive energy. Both public and private partners expressed a great deal of interest in cooperating further and expanding this successful project to other Kenyan counties with the overall aim of increasing farm incomes through connected farmers. The humble potato is serving as a strong pillar for food security in Kenya.