Towards Strengthening the Potato Value Chain in Kenya

Screenshot of a section of the participants during the workshop

AFRICA-ai-JAPAN, a JICA funded project in collaboration with the National Potato Council of Kenya (NPCK) organised an online workshop on Leveraging on Partnership for Strengthening the Potato Value Chain in the country.

During the workshop held August 21, 2020, participants unanimously agreed that potato plays a significant economic role in the country and is a major staple food ranked second to maize in utilization. According to the NPCK Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Wachira Kaguongo, potatoes are traded both in fresh and processed forms, making the value chain an important source of sustainable livelihoods.

“Potatoes are grown by over 800,000 smallholder farmers owning about 0.25-5 hectares of land, employing over 2.5 million actors along the value chain,” said Mr. Kaguongo.

Despite this potential in the national food and nutritional security, Mr. Kaguongo said, the Kenyan potato value chain is still faced with a number of challenges, among them; low supply and use of certified seeds, poor quality planting materials, poor agronomic practices, pest and diseases, inadequate value addition, and low access to market information, among others.

The 5 Work Packages of the JKUAT potato project

In a bid to strengthen the potato value chain in the country, Mr. Kaguongo noted, NPCK will, in collaboration with partners, focus on enhanced research in potato variety development and seed production, train farmers on potato seed management, enhance partnerships with research institutions, and foster partnerships with input and service providers.

He urged the academia to delve into intensive research and share their findings with end-users in order to make informed decisions and apprise potato strategy, action plans and policy.

Prof. Daniel Sila, a Food Science expert from JKUAT’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (COANRE) said, with the assistance of AFRICA-ai-JAPAN, the University in collaboration with Obihiro University in Japan were carrying out a potato project aimed at strengthening research and innovation in the potato value chain for enhanced food and nutrition security and health in Kenya.

Prof. Sila, who is the Project Leader said the project had taken a multi-disciplinary approach bringing on board researchers from the Colleges of Agriculture and Natural Resources; Health Sciences; and Engineering and Technology.

The project that integrates both Masters and PhD students strives to enhance the potato value chain in Kenya by reinforcing production, postharvest handling, value addition, access to market and integrating mechanization while making the value chain nutrient sensitive.

“The project is divided into five work packages that cut across various disciplines to improve the productivity of potatoes; the quality, nutrition safety and competitiveness of raw and processed potatoes; evaluate the health benefit of potatoes; evaluate mechanisms for strengthening the potato value chain; and design, fabricate and pilot test technological innovation for mechanizing potato harvesting, storage, grading and cottage processing,” explained Prof. Sila.

The JKUAT potato project team

AFRICA-ai-JAPAN Project’s Chief Advisor, Prof. Hiroshi Koaze assured the participants of JICA’s support for the potato value chain for the next five years and urged the organisations present to work together towards strengthening the potato value chain in Kenya.

The workshop was attended by close to 70 participants drawn from JKUAT, NCPK, JICA, Obihiro University (Japan), International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), International Potato Center (CIP), International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC), Irish Embassy, Kenya, Netherlands Seed Company and Nyandarua County Government.

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