By Carolyne Tomno
The lives of many potato farmers will soon change for the better.Their their yields are set to increase significantly due to improved technologies. Through a collaboration between Corteva Agriscience and the National Potato Council of Kenya.
Through the partnership, farmers will benefit from improved technologies and they will also be trained on how to improve potato yields through the use of quality seed, resilient and improved varieties, pest and disease management, post-harvest management and record keeping.
Since April 2020, seven demonstration Smallholder potato plots have been set up in Kinangop, Olkalau, Mau Narok, Bomet Central, Kieni East, Kieni West and Ainabkoi sub-counties.
Over 400 farmers have been trained on recommended practices such as soil testing services, apical cuttings technology, seeds selection and use of quality varieties/certified seeds, crop nutrition, crop protection and spray service provision.
The potato value chain in Kenya has remained underdeveloped for years, even though the crop is a key staple food, second only to maize. As a result, the country has been forced to import large quantities of potatoes, especially from neighboring countries like Tanzania.
Speaking during a farmer field day in Uasin Gishu County, Francis Karanja, Corteva Agriscience Sales Leader, Crop Protection in East Africa, said, “Corteva Agriscience is collaborating to help increase the productivity, incomes, and sustainable farming practices of smallholder farmers. He adds that farmer yields are expectedto improve from 7 to 20 tonnes be hectare.
Farmers will also be trained on how to improve potato yields through the use of quality seed
He adds that the products and information we share helps farmers 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,’’ said Karanja.
Mr Wachira Kagoungo from the Potato Council of Kenya said that the challenges facing Potato farming in Kenya could only be tackled through a Public Private Partnership (PPP) approach bringing stakeholders in the industry and value chain together.
He noted that farmers continued to produce low yields and of poor quality due to a combination of factors which include poor quality seeds, poor use of technology, and lack of expertise in disease and pest control.
According to the Potato Council of Kenya, pests and diseases contribute to an estimated 80% reduction in production which threatens improved seed availability and food security.