The potato plays an important role in Kenya’s food security plan. It’s nutritious, delivering iron, potassium, and vitamin C to millions.
Approximately 800,000 smallholder farmers in Kenya, and another two million people— transporters, distributors, processors, vendors, retailers, and exporters—derive their livelihoods from the potato value chain. The National Potato Council of Kenya (NPCK) estimates the annual potato harvest in 2021 atSh40 billion. Yet farm income growth from potato in Kenya lags with low yields: only eight to15 tons per hectare, about half its potential.
The low yields are due primarily to poor quality seed tubers saved from earlier harvests or purchased from unregulated local markets. Expanding farmer access to quality seed of improved potato varieties, combined with good agricultural practices, is essential to boost yields and earnings.
Working closely with public institutions and private sector, CIP has introduced several seed technologies and approaches, including storage structures, and high yielding, pest and disease resistance, and climate-resilient varieties. Rapid multiplication technologies, such as aeroponics, hydroponics and rooted apical cuttings are ramping up production of high-quality seed. These technologies have been adopted by both public and private seed merchants. However, the use of certified quality seed is still low, accounting for only 5% of sales in 2020 – far below ideal.
Working with county governments in Elgeyo-Marakwet, Meru, Nandi, Uasin Gishu, Nyandarua, Nakuru, Bungoma, Kiambu, and Taita Taveta, potato production is improving. And farmer engagement in marketing potatoes is being strengthened through farmer associations. The VIAZI SOKO platform, a one-stop information platform for potato farmers, is providing information on certified seed, produce outlets, and prevailing market prices of ware potato.
Kenya is a priority country for CIP hosting its regional hub. Thanks to investments by UKAID, USAID, German Technical Cooperation (GIZ), and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation among others, we will continue to exploit the power of potato and sweet potato in creating sustainable and diversified food systems. Partnerships with KALRO, Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate (KEPHIS), county governments, the private sector and other actors are key to the success of this work.