AGRICO – The Potato Consortium
Introduction – Potato farming in Kenya
The potato a good source of dietary energy, micronutrients with high protein content is a versatile, carbohydrate-rich food highly popular worldwide. Kenya not left behind, it is a smallholder farmers’ crop and it is the new staple, yet greatly affected by falling soil health and climate change factors. Due to lack of clean seed, the average yield of potatoes for smallholders in Kenya is about 5 tonnes per hectare, compared to an average yield of 50 tonnes per hectare in Netherlands. Lack of storage is also a key challenge resulting to poor profits as all farmers sell potatoes at the same – harvest-time, over a period of 2 months
A consortium (AGRICO-East Africa Consortium) targets to address some of these issues with the support of various entities. The consortium is composed of Smallholder Potato Farmers & other Value-Chain Entrepreneurs of Mt Kenya Region, The Kenya Network for Dissemination of Agricultural Technologies (KENDAT), Farm Concern International (FCI), AGRICO East Africa Office (AEA), Practical Training Centre (backed by) Fresh Produce Exporters of East Africa (FPEAK) and Murphy Chemicals.
AGRICO the largest European seed-potato export was formed as a cooperative of potato growers in 1973. The organization that exports seed potatoes to over 75 countries worldwide recently opened office in East Africa with the headquarters in Nairobi and working with the support and approval of KEPHIS and the Government, are farm-testing some 16 (out of a possible 115) potato varieties in the country. AGRICO also works in partnership with Tolsma of Netherlands, specialists in climate-controlled potato and other crop storage structures.
With the support of the Dutch Embassy the consortium has a goal of building a robust and profitable potato agribusiness value-chain, and work to build partnerships for efficient farming, commercialization and market infrastructure, benefiting smallholder farmers of Mt. Kenya region and beyond
The consortium hopes to engage some 6000 smallholder farmers and another 500 entrepreneurs to lay ground for a vibrant national potato seed distribution, farming and marketing systems. This will be readily replicable to national level, to reach some 36,000 active farmers and numerous other entrepreneurs by Year 5.
Farmers will be assisted to grow CVs into regionally representative conglomerates – sustainable cooperative organizations. Under these, smallholder farmers will, (on a shareholding arrangement), own centralised assembly and storage structures (as core trading bases). They will manage their own agronomic input and other training services as well as run a trading and business tracking, cum banking system in form of a Savings and Credit Co-Op (SACCO).
The consortium will also have the below undertakings:
• Farmer mobilization, on-farm training and empowerment at a Service Centre located at an already identified irrigated 30 acre model farm.
• A potato agribusiness, agro-input system and mechanization (hire service scheme) and irrigation reticulation programme co-owned with participating farmers.
• A “plug and play” Tolsma 600 tonne capacity potato storage structure. The training facilities and the storage structure will be co-owned by participating farmers on a share-holding scheme, Dutch Embassy funds being used to kick-off a sustainable longer-term funding process. A second storage unit will be located in the same general area to reduce the distance of travel by the trucks serving the smallholder farmers.
Role of KENDAT
• In partnership with FCI, offer training to farmers to modern farming and Commercial Village market outlets for potatoes in rotation with onions, snow and garden peas, among other soil-health enhancing crops.
• Together with FCI, support Murphy chemicals and ensure farmer input-output agrochemical and other input needs are met.
• The Practical Training Centre (backed by Fresh Produce Exporters of East Africa [FPEAK]) based in Thika is being incorporated in the Consortium to guard Kenya GAP standards and scale-up the training by KENDAT and FCI. Their facilities will come into use as the new potato farming approaches take-root
• KENDAT and FCI strengthen the smallholder farmers’ end of the elaborate with the support of the Dutch Embassy
• KENDAT and FCI will prepare the farmers to receive and plant clean seed potato, nurture it and market the same under modern, structured marketing systems, grounded to last the passage of time.