Farming communities especially the small-scale holders rarely get access to up-to-date information on weather, climate information as well as access to quality farm inputs.
This affects their ability to appropriately adopt to climate-smart agricultural practices. Inter-annual variations and extremities in weather conditions, particularly the eminent non-uniform rainfall patterns and temperature, have resulted in low yields or total destruction of field crops posing a negative impact on farmers’ incomes and livelihoods.
These problems are largely compounded by the unsustainable agricultural practices that result in reduced soil fertility, reduced capacity for the soil to hold water, hence culminating into ecosystem degradation, habitat loss and overall loss of biodiversity.
An important pathway to reaching adequate nutrition and incomes, farmers need climate smart tools and applications that can accelerate access to production inputs, market intelligence, climatic conditions and a common platform for sharing information on good agricultural practices (GAP). Such a platform and tools would aid farmers in adjusting their management practices to cope with the unprecedented climate change impacts.
It is in the light of this that scientists from the Department of Horticulture and Food Security, College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) led by Dr. Leonard Kiirika, embarked on training Irish Potato farmers on the use of ICT in potato production systems.
The project titled, “Validating and scaling-up quality seed potato production, post-harvest and distribution models & policies for improved access and income,” is funded by the World Bank under the 2019 Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture Project (KCSAP).
The project team, including Dr. Mwashasha Rashid and Dr. Agnes Kavoo together with a representative from National Potato Council of Kenya (NPCK), trained farmers on application of ViaziSoko platform, an easy-to-use digital platform available as web-based, Mobile App or USSD.
The training sessions were conducted in Elgeyo-Marakwet and Nyeri counties on June 11 and 18, 2021 respectively. Irish potato farmers and other stakeholders were trained on the use of ViaziSoko, platform to address various challenges facing the Irish potato value chain actors.
Elgeyo-Marakwet County is one of the leading producers of ware potato in Kenya, with potato grown in 14 out of the 20 wards. On the other hand, Nyeri County, located in the central region of Kenya, also produces ware potatoes especially in Kieni East and Kieni West sub-counties.
The farmers benefited from the training of the ICT technology, ViaziSoko which has the potential to offer an efficient and a quick access to quality inputs and services including acquiring certified seeds, potato specific fertilizers, approved agrochemicals, spray services, soil testing and mechanization services.
Moreover, the platform has inbuilt functions that are highly networked to link farmers to market outlets, hence solving the problem of access to market, which is cited as a major bottleneck to potato farming in the region.
To utilize the ViaziSoko platform, a user has to first complete the registration process by signing up on the link: https://npckviazisoko.com/sign-up, or by dialing *483*331* on the phone and following the instructions.
A farmer can then freely query and receive feedback on available commodities and services including availability of quality seed and other farm inputs required for potato production.