Kenya: Dutch potato project to improve food security

Potatoes are the second most important crop in Kenya, coming in just behind maize. In the region of 2.5 million people are employed across the potato supply chain. Current low production then, is bad news.

The decline in production has been blamed on poor seed. Kenya lacks good quality seed potatoes and there is tendency to use those from previous harvests, a bad practice that can lead to pest and disease problems.

Farmers use the traditional method of borrowing seed potatoes from neighbours and some have never bought potato seed.

According to the National Potato Council of Kenya, there are 800,000 potato growers in the country, planting an estimated 158,000 hectares. Meru, Limuru, Nyandarua, Nyahururu, Kericho are identified as the leading potato growing areas.

However, despite the high potential to contribute to employment creation and poverty alleviation, the potato industry also faces a challenge in production, processing and marketing. Perhaps as a result of poor marketing, farmers have been unable to generate good profits.

Hans Wolff, agricultural counsellor, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation in the Netherlands, says agriculture is declining in Kenya due to rural-urban migration.

“For long we have been looking at sectors where we could partner and contribute to food security in Kenya and we thought that there is a gap in potato farming. The state of affairs in potato growing in Kenya is wanting and really poor, which can be attributed to the fact that Kenyan farmers are multiplying seed potatoes from previous harvests. We hope the Kenya-Dutch project will further contribute to high nutrition and economic stability in the country,” Wolff says.

Kenya is expected to benefit from this bilateral agreement with the government of the Netherlands to produce new varieties of potatoes and boost potato growing in Kenya.

The project is timely in Kenya especially now when the country is working towards diversification of food production and food security is high on the agenda.

Source: allafrica.com

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