By Naomi Gateri
Kenya is among the top ten countries in Africa known to have a large area for growth of potatoes. In the country, potatoes are ranked the second after maize in term of importance. You will find it in most of the meals as they can be baked, fried or boiled. Do you know we can get flour from potatoes? That’s one of its uses among others. How about mashed potatoes or potato soup…they really taste nice.
Potato peels are rich in starch and can be used as farm animal feeds besides other benefits. Potatoes are source of income as well. Some people do start business, buy land, vehicles and pay school fees through sale of potatoes.
Kenyan high production potato areas include: Nyandarua, Taita Taveta, Yatta, Molo, Timboroa, Kiambu, Nyeri, Trans-Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, West Pokot, Elgeyo-Marakwet, Bomet, Bungoma, Meru, Nakuru and Narok. This is because potatoes are highland crops and mostly do well in reddish soil.
Potatoes do not require a lot of work. After tilling the land, prepare furrows, put some manure and DAP fertilizer. You’ll have already bought the seeds. The next step is planting, water them through irrigation if there is no rain and weed the farm. You also need to boost your yields through chemicals and use fungicides and pesticides to control pests and diseases. Then you can wait for around three months for the plants to mature.
The following are some of the most common potato breeds in Kenya: Tigoni, Shangi, Kenya Mpya, Karibu Kenya, Kenya Mavuno, Rudolf, Sherekea, Asante, Ambition, Arizona, and Arnova. Majority of Kenyan farmers have embraced Shangi as crop experts claim it to be suitable for chips and crisp. Anyway the breed to plant depends on the place, quality and market.
Brokers can be one of the problems you are likely to encounter when looking for markets. They can save you from looking for customers but at the same time make you incur losses by buying your potatoes at cheap prices, it’s better for you to know the best time to plant your crops so that they can mature when the supply is less for the price to favour you.Sell your crops directly to the buyers which can come from schools, institutions and restaurants. Packaging of potatoes isn’t the best. Though there are laws on the packaging, they aren’t followed. The seller can’t dictate the price too.
Buying certified seeds has been one of the major challenge too facing Kenyan farmers. Coming from one of the potato growing areas, I didn’t know anything to do with certified seeds until I came across an article about them. Even if you ask another person growing potatoes, they know nothing about certified seeds. Most of them depend on farm-saved seed potatoes as planting materials.
Kisima Foundation is a good source of certified seeds. They charge about Ksh 3000 per potato bag. Payment through Mpesa is allowed. They also offer after- sales services by delivering seeds to your farm. Kenya Agricultural Research Institute is an agricultural unit that helps in provision of disease-free seeds.
Besides depending on KARI, Kenyan authorities have signed a bilateral agreement with Scottish government. An estimation of Ksh6.2 billion is what Scottish farmers are aiming to get from Kenyan markets.
Quoting the Scottish Rural Economy secretary Fergus Ewing, he said Scotland high health status and its global reputation for producing high quality seeds led to the agreement. Only 2% of the160 hectares used for potato growing is from certified potato seeds. So, this will be of help to both Scottish and Kenyan farmers. Kenyans will get access to high quality seeds while for Scottish it will be about boosting their markets. Certified seeds are free from diseases, have high quality increasing your yields, they are clean and specify the variety you need.
There is still high demand of certified seeds than the supply in Kenya. Currently, Netherlands dealers are supplying Scottish potato seeds to the Kenyan market.