Kenya Potato Value Chain Gets a Lift Off from the Irish Government

The sale of Irish potatoes from the country is set to improve in coming months following the launch of a program by Kenya and Ireland. The project focuses its initial roll out on Nyandarua in the north-western part of Central Province.

Announcing the partnership, the Irish government’s representatives in partnership with Kenya’s agricultural docket officials confirmed a holistic program involving soil tests through final market processing.

The Governor of the region, Mr Francis Kimemia highlighted that the new deal was occasioned by the higher percentage of potato produce in Nyandarua over other local counties. The region registered 33% of all potato production in Kenya in 2017.

Among the missing services that affect farmers in the region include low value chain information, a point which the Irish delegation has touted to counter through information services. One of these is to offer machinery to test the soil, perform perpetual soil enrichment drives and offer mechanized agricultural tools.

Improving the Value Chain of Potatoes

The most important role that the initiative is likely to play other than the instillation of farming knowledge is to empower farmers through a direct market.

According to the representative of the Irish delegation, Mr Moran, the idea of the program is to enable smallholder farmers to be able to get more value for money for their crop. This is besides eradicating food insecurity in the region using the abundant potato as a resilient produce.

Expansion to other Potato-Growing Areas

The initiative will also expand to the neighboring potato farming belt of Nakuru. Due to the prevalence of brokers who exploit family growers, the county’s government passed a law in 2014 to restrict the sizes of potato sacks to 50 kilograms. Nakuru’s farmers may benefit most from the program because of the current poor storage facilities for the produce which leads to major losses each year. The crop often rots in the fields due to surplus and low prices which hamper its sale.

Before the above clause came to be, the average loading capacity was between 180 and 280 kilograms. The 180-kilogram stipulation was overruled because it did not reflect in the prices the farmers were receiving.

Other major hubs in Kenya of Irish potatoes include Narok where the cross-country program is also soon to expand. The County is yet to enforce a law similar to the one in Nakuru as farmers still pack their produce in gunny packs of over 150 kilograms, which leads to loss of revenue to brokers.

It is not yet clear whether the program will reach Kuresoi and Keringet in the Rift Valley, which also rank among the potato baskets of the nation.

Such initiatives will help to improve the living conditions of some 3.3 million local farmers, middlemen, marketers and retailers who all depend on potato production in Kenya, using 2017 figures. It is also notable that major counties have potato seed companies, such as the one in Njoro, Nakuru county, where farmers can access the right planting material.