Taita Taveta farmers swap maize for potatoes to earn more
TUESDAY JUNE 22 2021
Amon Mghendi on his potato farm in Werugha, Taita Taveta County. PHOTO | LABAN WALLOGA | NMG
Angelica Mwaruruma, a farmer in Chawia sub-county in Taita Taveta, could wait for six months before harvesting her maize crop. She also planted one season in a year. That meant it took her longer to make decent income and put adequate food on the table.
Maize farming has been tough, limiting the opportunities that lie beneath the soils of the otherwise agriculture-rich county.
Farmers have, therefore, been forced to change from growing maize to crops such as potatoes and green grams that mature faster.
Through Accelerated Value Chain Development (AVCD), an initiative that has seen farmers transition to new enterprises, farmers have been growing potatoes and French beans as an alternative to maize.
The returns are much better than growing maize, says the farmers.
“I get 12 bags of potatoes from my small piece of land whereas I used to get only two bags of maize,” says Ms Mwaruruma, pointing out that the returns are far much better than French beans because of low cost of production.
In her quarter of an acre, the farmer makes a net profit of Sh11,000 from potatoes whereas she could earn Sh8,000 from French beans and hardly Sh5,000 from maize. A kilo of potato is selling at Sh60 at the farm gate.
“I never knew that in my lifetime I will have my own bank account, thanks to potato farming. It has enabled me to open an account where I make some savings,” she tells Enterprise.
AVCD programme, which is spearheaded by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) has had a positive impact in the county, increasing both the farmers’ income and the acreage under the crop in less than three years since it was started.
The value chain aims to reach at least 35,000 household in Kenya with high-quality seed of improved potato varieties to increase income by at least 20 percent and value of sales by 30 percent.
Anthony Kariku, Irish potato coordinator in Taita Taveta County, says the AVCD programme has come as a boost to the farmers in the region both in terms of income and nutrition.
“Farmers are now food secure and they have money in their pockets after changing from maize to potato,” says Mr Kariku.
Farmers, he notes, are now harvesting up to 14 tonnes an acre from a low of 5 tonnes before they had undergone the AVCD training. Before the training, Mr Kariku says, only 500 farmers were growing potatoes, a number that has so far surged to 3,800 as more people embrace the crop due to its good returns.
The training entailed teaching farmers good agronomical practices, which include selection of good seed, diseases and pests management and record-keeping.
Mr Kariku notes that the crop has now become one of the major income earners in the county, ranking third as macadamia takes the first spot.
The main challenge for farmers has been access to clean seed. However, because of the potential that the crop has in the region, International Centre for Potato has moved in to help farmers not only with procuring but also training on seed multiplication.
Angleton Mwanjewe, another farmer in the region, says potato is much more lucrative and has enhanced food security in the area as the maize crop continues to record a decline in production in the recent years.
Farmers have formed cooperative societies where the produce are aggregated especially when the market is flooded and prices depressed. This enables them to sell later when prices are better.
About 800,000 farmers, mostly smallholder, now grow potato which is increasingly becoming a key source of food security and income. Consumption of the potatoes is also growing rapidly and it is currently ranked the second most important staple food crop after maize.
The recent decision by Treasury to impose a 30 percent duty on potato coming outside of the East Africa Community, is a good news to the local growers who say they plant the variety that meets the market requirement.
The cooperative plans to invest in a cold storage plant to strengthen the Irish potato value chain and protect potato farmers from decreased prices during a market glut.
NEWS ON NUTRITION
Lessons from Kenya – exploring multi-sector programme implementation in nutrition
Join ENN’s Lillian Karanja Odhiambo to see and hear how one multi-sector programmes is being implemented at the sub-national level in Kenya. This video focuses on implementation challenges and lessons from the USAID-funded Accelerated Value Chain Development Programme (AVCD) in Homa Bay and how current government led activities and structures enable and interact with this multi-sectoral programme.
This video accompanies a full report on Multi-sector programmes at the sub-national level: A case study in Homa Bay and Makueni counties in Kenya.
This video is one of three in a series of videos on multi-sector programming at the sub-national level, more information about it is available here.
NEWS ON AVCD DROUGHT TOLERANT VALUE CHAIN COMPONENT
NEWS ON AVCD POTATO VALUE CHAIN COMPONENT
NEWS ON AVCD DAIRY VALUE CHAIN COMPONENT
NEWS FROM THE AVCD NATIONAL CONFERENCE
Apr 28, 2018- Kenya Broadcast Corporations Youtube
Official Launch of Kenya Feed the Future Country Plan during the opening of the National Accelerated Value Chain Development (AVCD) Conference at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) #Big4ActionPlan #AVCDNatConf
Apr 27, 2018- H.E Uhuru Kenyatta Official Facebook page
Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta addresses the 400 guests at the national conference of the Feed the Future Accelerating Value Chain Development program at ILRI on 27 Apr 2018
April 27, 2018 Xinhua
Kenya moves to empower farmers with sci-tech for food security
NAIROBI, April 27 (Xinhua) — Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta said on Friday that his government will use science and technology to empower farmers as part of the efforts to achieve food security and nutrition.
Kenyatta said the new approach will enhance agricultural productivity by targeting small-scale farmers with new technologies.
“In order to achieve growth in the agricultural sector, we must resort to new thinking by relying on innovation and mechanization,” he said during the opening of Accelerated Value Chain Development (AVCD) National Conference in Nairobi.
The president said the new approach will mean moving away from the old policy of using subsidies as the only method to boost production.
“We must rely more on scientific data to drive our policy interventions on input subsidies and strategic food reserves,” Kenyatta said.
He revealed that Kenyan farmers will be empowered through the availing of information to help increase their output per acre, reduce their unit cost of production and improve returns on their investment.
Kenyatta said the government is seeking ways to support the revival of crop and livestock extension services, which hold the key to improved productivity as they help improve the knowledge base of farmers through a variety of means, such as demonstrations, model plots and training.
The two-day event was attended by 400 participants from national Government, County Governments, development partners, beneficiary farmers and pastoralists.
Kenyatta called on policymakers and regulatory authorities in the agricultural sector to open up to new ideas, and benchmark national standards with countries that are food sufficient.
Kenyatta further called on research organizations in the country to get more involved towards the transformation of agriculture.
He cautioned on the use of subsidies, adding that they have previously majorly benefited the rich but not the small-scale farmer who are crucial to the country’s resilience.
He noted that Kenya has research institutions that are reservoirs of information, technology and innovations that have been accumulated over the years which if applied can revolutionize agriculture.
The Kenyans leader urged the international and national agricultural research institutions in the country to work closely with the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation and the County Governments to help initiate development focused programs to assist in implementing the Government’s Big Four Agenda on Food and Nutrition Security.
April 27, 2018-U.S. Embassy in Kenya Official Website ke.usembassy.gov
US Ambassador’s Remarks Speech at the Accelerated Value Chain Development National Conference, ILRI Campus