Story by Dinah Borus
Decentralised seed potato multipliers and county officers in Kenya’s North Rift —part of Feed the Future Kenya Accelerated Value Chain Development (AVCD) project—undertook an educational tour aimed at showcasing procedures and practises for producing certified seed. The tour, organised by AVCD-Potato project funded by USAID, took place from 5th to 7th July 2017.
Participants included 17 decentralised seed potato multipliers (DSMs) and four county staff drawn from the three intervention counties: Elgeyo-Marakwet, Uasin-Gishu and Nandi. Each county selected progressive DSMs who had purchased substantial amounts of certified seed for at least two out of the three seasons that the project has been in operation and who had the potential to produce certified seed.
The group visited seed potato merchants: Stokmen Rozen (SRK) Limited in Naivasha, Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO-Tigoni) in Limuru, Kisima Farm in Timau, Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) seed potato complex in Molo and Sungus farm in Molo.
At SRK, the group were introduced to technologies applied in production of potato rooted cuttings. Julius Muchiri who hosted the group emphasized the importance of hygiene and sanitation throughout the production and handling of the rooted cuttings. He assured the group that SRK had the capacity to produce and deliver healthy and quality rooted cuttings for the preferred varieties. Three DSMs had first-hand experience with the rooted cuttings making the visit quite educative.
Next, the group visited KALRO-Tigoni, a centre with a national mandate for potato research. The team was received by the Centre Deputy Director, Nancy Ng’anga. Here the group learnt about various methods of producing minitubers starting with invitro plantlets. Patrick, the Tissue Culture technologist at the centre explained how invitro plantlets are produced and the steps that follow through to field production of the different generations. The group were also shown the cold storage and the diffused lights stores (DLS) at the centre. At the end of the farm tour, Nancy gave a copy of seed potato production book to the AVCD-Potato focal point coordinators from each county for use by their teams.
From KALRO-Tigoni, the group travelled to Kisima farm, about four hours’ drive from Nairobi. Participants were pleasantly surprised by the ultra-modern technologies employed by the large scale farm. John Kibet the officer in-charge of potato enterprise received the group and showed them the state of the art cold storage and digitized farm machineries including a planter, grader, harvester and others. He also showed the group a potato field crop ready for harvesting. After the farm tour, the group were grateful that they had been selected for the visit. “It’s like we have been to Netherlands” they summed up their experience at Kisima farm.
The next stop was Sungus farm in Molo. This family farm is managed by Mr and Mrs Simon Mbugua. Anneh Mbugua is in-charge of the certified seed production enterprise. She has been involved in seed potato production since 2008. Initially she was producing clean seed but recently she registered with Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate (KEPHIS) as a seed merchant and this has enabled her to produce certified seed since 2016. At the time of the visit, Anneh had over 3 acres of field crop of Shangi variety. The story of Anneh resonated well with the North Rift DSMs who are currently producing clean seed but want to venture into certified seed. They learnt how she progressed over time. Importantly, the group realised the benefits of doing seed business in a sustainable manner and being honest.
From Sungus farm, the group passed through ADC-seed potato complex in Molo town. Here they received information on production of certified seed. They were also shown the aeroponics facility, the cold storage and the grader at the complex. The group appreciated the role played by the complex in supplying certified seed to the North Rift.
The group were also grateful to the Principal of Wambugu Agricultural Training Centre (ATC) in Nyeri where they spent one night and learnt a lot from the demonstration at the institution. On the way back to Eldoret the group had their wrap up meeting at Baraka Agriculture College. They enlisted three follow-up actions: increase acreage under seed at individual level, construct more DLS and fast track formation of potato cooperatives that will be used as a vehicle for production of certified seed.
“The three-day event has been an eye opener for all of us and now we believe we can do it. We are grateful to AVCD-Project for making this happen,” concluded the team.
Dinah Borus is Field Coordinator for Feed the Future Kenya Accelerated Value Chain Development (AVCD) Potato project funded by USAID.