Potatoes for prosperity

A quarter of Kenyan potato farmers adopt more
productive varieties

Africa’s first potato farmers were European settlers who introduced the crop in the late 1800s, but few Africans grew it before the mid-1950s. Since then, the tuber has taken off, with more than 25 million metric tons produced in Africa in 2017.

In Kenya, potato is now the second most important food crop after maize, grown by 800,000 small-scale farmers and generating employment for an estimated 2.5 million people along the value chain. Improved potato production has the potential to significantly boost farm incomes. While reality for most Kenyan farmers had long fallen short of that potential, recently introduced disease-resistant and heat-tolerant varieties are giving farmers the upper hand.

Superior spuds

In Kenya, CIP partners with the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) to meet farmer demands for more resilient and higher yielding potato varieties with the attributes sought by consumers.

One such potato is Sherekea. Released in 2010, Sherekea is now grown by one-fifth of potato farmers in Meru county—a major producing area—and nearly one in ten nationally. Breeders selected Sherekea for its yield potential and resistance to late blight, a disease that destroys an estimated 30–60% of Kenya’s potato crop annually.

Doris Kagendo Gikunda, a potato farmer in Meru County, likes that Unica produces plenty of large tubers in just three months. “Unica is very good when cooked, and it has a ready market. People in towns who prepare chips love it,” she said.

Potatoes for prosperity

A quarter of Kenyan potato farmers adopt more productive varieties

Africa’s first potato farmers were European settlers who introduced the crop in the late 1800s, but few Africans grew it before the mid-1950s. Since then, the tuber has taken off, with more than 25 million metric tons produced in Africa in 2017.

In Kenya, potato is now the second most important food crop after maize, grown by 800,000 small-scale farmers and generating employment for an estimated 2.5 million people along the value chain. Improved potato production has the potential to significantly boost farm incomes. While reality for most Kenyan farmers had long fallen short of that potential, recently introduced disease-resistant and heat-tolerant varieties are giving farmers the upper hand.

Superior spuds

In Kenya, CIP partners with the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) to meet farmer demands for more resilient and higher yielding potato varieties with the attributes sought by consumers.

One such potato is Sherekea. Released in 2010, Sherekea is now grown by one-fifth of potato farmers in Meru county—a major producing area—and nearly one in ten nationally. Breeders selected Sherekea for its yield potential and resistance to late blight, a disease that destroys an estimated 30–60% of Kenya’s potato crop annually.

Climate-resilient Unica, another CIP variety released in 2016, thrives in both highlands and lowlands, rainy and dry areas, and resists viruses and late blight. Because Unica tolerates heat and water stress, it has been promoted in traditional and non-traditional potato producing areas, such as Meru and Tanita-Taveta counties. It is as productive as other varieties on less than a third of the rainfall.

Doris Kagendo Gikunda, a potato farmer in Meru County, likes that Unica produces plenty of large tubers in just three months. “Unica is very good when cooked, and it has a ready market. People in towns who prepare chips love it,” she said.

Sustainable seed systems

Because potato has a lower multiplication rate than grain crops, it can take up to 10 years to produce enough seed potatoes of a new variety for a sufficient number of farmers to start growing it. With the introduction to Kenya of new techniques like using rooted cuttings from potato plants as starting material, and training for small-scale seed multipliers and larger companies, the production of quality planting material has significantly accelerated in recent years.

This has been facilitated by public-private partnerships involving KALRO and a dozen seed companies, which have made seed production a more profitable activity and ensured the sustainability of the system. Thanks of these collaborations, a combination of parastatal and private sector enterprises now produce about 2 million metric tons of potato seed per year – five times what was available to farmers a decade ago – sold for about USD 2 million. In exchange for the rights to sell the varieties, KALRO receives 2.5% royalty of seed sales. The money raised helps fund the breeding of future varieties.

Kisima Farm, Kenya’s biggest seed producer, has scaled back production of Asante – until recently one of the country’s top varieties – to produce more Sherekea seed, which has become the company’s biggest seller. “Sherekea is now widely recognized as giving higher yields and being more late blight-resistant than Asante,” noted Jonathan Moss, Kisima Farm’s managing director.

Thanks to research and technical support over the last five years, NGOs and county governments have set up local systems to produce and disseminate quality seed to small-scale farmers more quickly. Consequently, nearly a quarter of Kenya’s potato farmers, some 180,000, now grow CIP-bred varieties. And since planting quality seed of improved varieties boosts yields, decision makers have taken notice.

“Our work has really opened the eyes of local leaders to the potential value of potato,” said senior scientist Monica Parker. “Over the last five years, more than 200 extension agents from nine county governments have trained farmers in the use of apical cuttings to produce seed potatoes, while CIP provided technical support to large seed producers, which led to at least 15 nurseries in Kenya investing in apical cutting production. This will accelerate the dissemination of the improved varieties and greater availability of quality potato seed in the coming years.”

Funders: Deutsche Gesellschaft for Internationale Zusammenarbeit; Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture; United States Agency for International Development.

Partners: Aroma; Farm Input Promotions Africa; Genetic Technologies International Limited; Kenya county governments of Bungoma, Elgeyo-Marakwet, Kiambu, Meru, Nakuru, Nandi, Nyandarua, Taita Taveta, and Uasin Gishu; Kisima Farm; Self Help Africa; Stokman Rozen Kenya; Taita Papa; Potato Empire; World Food Programme.

Associated CGIAR Research Programs: Agriculture for Nutrition and Health; Roots, Tubers and Bananas.

ABOUT

CIP is a CGIAR research center with a focus on potato, sweetpotato and Andean roots and tubers. It delivers innovative science-based solutions to enhance access to affordable nutritious food, foster inclusive sustainable business and employment growth, and drive the climate resilience of root and tuber agri-food systems. Headquartered in Lima, Peru, CIP has a research presence in more than 20 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. www.cipotato.org

CGIAR is a global research partnership for a food-secure future. Its science is carried out by 15 research centers in close collaboration with hundreds of partners across the globe. www.cgiar.org

CIP ACHIEVEMENTS

CREDITS

Discovery to Impact
Science-based solutions for global challenges

International Potato Center | Annual Report 2019
© 2020, International Potato Center
ISSN 0256-6311
DOI: 10.4160/02566311/2018
Hecho el Depósito Legal en la Biblioteca Nacional del Perú  N° 2005-9640 

Readers are encouraged to quote or reproduce material from this report. As copyright holder, CIP requests acknowledgement and a copy of the publication where the citation or material appears. Please send this to the Communications Department at the address below. 

International Potato Center
Av. La Molina 1895, La Molina, Peru
Apartado 1558, Lima 12, Peru
cip@cgiar.org
www.cipotato.org 

Direction
James Stapleton 

Managing editor
Christopher Butler 

Writing 
David Dudenhoefer (consultant) 

Production coordinator
Cecilia Lafosse 

Multimedia productions
Sara Fajardo
Hugh Rutherford
Isabel Corthier 

Web development
Moises Rosario
Andrea Prado 

Design and infographics
José Enrique Torres 

Photo captions and credits 

Sliders:
Sweetpotato vine distribution in Mozambique (CIP/I. Corthier).
Jan Kreuze in the lab. (Credit CIP/J. Torres).
Genetic markers facilitate breeding resilient potatoes with characteristics local people want. (Credit CIP/H. Rutherford).

Sub-menus:

Discovery:
Jan Kreuze in the lab. (Credit CIP/J. Torres)

Innovation:
Ms Tirhas Woldu and her daughters, of Tigray, Ethiopia, enjoy orange-fleshed sweetpotato. (Credit CIP/A.Frezer)

Impact:
A combination of sweetpotato planting material, agronomic training and nutrition education has helped millions of rural families improve their food and nutrition security. (Credit CIP/I. Corthier)

Next-generation breeding:
Research assistant Monica Santayana works on a project to crossbreed potato and its wild relatives (Crop Trust/M. Major).

Stopping sweetpotato pathogens:
Scientist Barack Wanjawa tests the LAMP assay for sweetpotato viruses in Kenya (KALRO/A. Mulwa).

Triple advantage:
By storing sweetpotatoes in dry sand and using them to produce planting material, farmers are able to plant and harvest the nutritious crop earlier (CIP/M. Cherinet).

Potatoes for prosperity:
Farmer Doris Kagendo Gikunda, of Meru county, with the high-yielding CIP potato variety Unica (CIP/V. Atakos).

Sweet resilience:
Thousands of farmers received sweetpotato planting material to replace crops destroyed by Cyclone Idai (CIP/I. Corthier).

Asian appetites:
Nutrition education in Bangladesh (CIP/S.Quinn)

CIP at a glance:
Credit CIP/H. Rutherford

CIP in CGIAR:
Credit CIP/I. Corthier

Board of Trustees:
Credit CIP/J.Torres

July 2020 

CREDITS

Discovery to Impact
Science-based solutions for global challenges

International Potato Center | Annual Report 2019
© 2020, International Potato Center
ISSN 0256-6311
DOI: 10.4160/02566311/2018
Hecho el Depósito Legal en la Biblioteca Nacional del Perú  N° 2005-9640 

Readers are encouraged to quote or reproduce material from this report. As copyright holder, CIP requests acknowledgement and a copy of the publication where the citation or material appears. Please send this to the Communications Department at the address below. 

International Potato Center
Av. La Molina 1895, La Molina, Peru
Apartado 1558, Lima 12, Peru
cip@cgiar.org
www.cipotato.org 

Direction
James Stapleton 

Managing editor
Christopher Butler 

Writing 
David Dudenhoefer (consultant) 

Production coordinator
Cecilia Lafosse 

Multimedia productions
Sara Fajardo
Hugh Rutherford
Isabel Corthier 

Web development
Moises Rosario
Andrea Prado 

Design and infographics
José Enrique Torres 

Photo captions and credits 

Sliders:
Sweetpotato vine distribution in Mozambique (CIP/I. Corthier).
Jan Kreuze in the lab. (Credit CIP/J. Torres).
Genetic markers facilitate breeding resilient potatoes with characteristics local people want. (Credit CIP/H. Rutherford).

Sub-menus:

Discovery:
Jan Kreuze in the lab. (Credit CIP/J. Torres).

Innovation:
Ms Tirhas Woldu and her daughters, of Tigray, Ethiopia, enjoy orange-fleshed sweetpotato. (Credit CIP/A.Frezer).

Impact:
A combination of sweetpotato planting material, agronomic training and nutrition education has helped millions of rural families improve their food and nutrition security. (Credit CIP/I. Corthier).

Next-generation breeding:
Research assistant Monica Santayana works on a project to crossbreed potato and its wild relatives (Crop Trust/M. Major).

Stopping sweetpotato pathogens:
Scientist Barack Wanjawa tests the LAMP assay for sweetpotato viruses in Kenya (KALRO/A. Mulwa).

Triple advantage:
By storing sweetpotatoes in dry sand and using them to produce planting material, farmers are able to plant and harvest the nutritious crop earlier (CIP/M. Cherinet).

Potatoes for prosperity:
Farmer Doris Kagendo Gikunda, of Meru county, with the high-yielding CIP potato variety Unica (CIP/V. Atakos).

Sweet resilience:
Thousands of farmers received sweetpotato planting material to replace crops destroyed by Cyclone Idai (CIP/I. Corthier).

Asian appetites:
Nutrition education in Bangladesh (CIP/S.Quinn).

CIP at a glance:
Credit CIP/H. Rutherford

CIP in CGIAR:
Credit CIP/I. Corthier

Communication data 2019:
Credit CIP/S. Quinn

Board of Trustees:
Credit CIP/J.Torres

July 2020 

ABOUT  | CIP ACHIEVEMENTS | CREDITS

ABOUT  | CIP ACHIEVEMENTS | CREDITS

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