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New Potato Consortium Formed in Kenya to Improve Access to Agricultural Inputs & Market

The partners have formed a consortium and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on contract farming, crop protection, and value addition on potatoes.

Shivam Dwivedi
Improved potato production has the potential to significantly increase farm incomes
Improved potato production has the potential to significantly increase farm incomes

The initiative will be implemented over a two-year period with the goal of increasing tuber yield to 14 tonnes per hectare from the current level of 7 to 10 tonnes. It also intends to cut post-harvest losses in the sector by half. The country has launched a pilot programme in the first half of 2023 that targets four counties: Nyandarua, Nakuru, Elgeyo Marakwet, and Nyeri.

Carol Mumo, Yara Fertilizer Marketing Manager, stated that the consortium that brings together the various players would be useful in assisting farmers in gaining access to quality seeds, a financial boost from the Cooperative Bank as the primary financier, and agrochemicals and fertilizers that are specifically designed for the type of crop.

Esther Kariuki, Co-operative Bank's Head of Agriculture Business, stated that the initiative aims to reach over 30,000 farmers by 2026, improving yields by 50% and reducing post-harvest losses by 50%. She stated that key knowledge gaps, such as agronomy, commercial and digital knowledge, and access to finance and markets, will be addressed.

During the signing of the MoU, Governor Dr. Kiarie Badilisha stated that one of the most significant challenges confronting potato farmers in the county was market access, noting that it was a sad paradox that the country continued to import potatoes for high-end food chains while local farmers in Nyandarua, the leading producers, struggled to get quality value for their produce.

"The consortium of like-minded companies that play within the potato value chain is addressing current barriers that potato farmers face by enabling access to affordable and high-quality inputs, credit, and long-term markets," the lender explained.

"The Co-operative Bank of Kenya will provide capacity-building support to the county Government and Co-operative societies to enable them to form and run strong, efficient, and well-governed potato Co-operatives. In addition, the bank will provide farmers with affordable financing options to ensure timely access to quality inputs, water, mechanization, and post-harvest solutions." According to the International Potato Center, potato is now Kenya's second most important food crop after maize, grown by more than 4.5 million small-scale farmers and generating significant employment throughout the value chain.

Improved potato production has the potential to significantly increase farm incomes, according to the Peruvian research-for-development organization specializing in potato, sweet potato, and Andean roots and tubers. Solynta, a Dutch biotechnology company that specializes in hybrid potato breeding, recently partnered with FreshCrop Limited, a Kenya-based technology-driven agricultural company, to develop a hybrid true potato innovation in the country.

The companies are collaborating to facilitate the future introduction of high-quality hybrid potato seed tubers produced from hybrid true potato seeds, thereby alleviating the region's scarcity of clean starting material and providing farmers with access to disease-free seed tubers. As part of this collaboration, FreshCrop will use its extensive seed distribution network in Nakuru, Nyandarua, and Narok counties to help farmers spread and adopt new seed potatoes derived from Solynta hybridization.

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