Story by Millicent Wasolo; 4th Year student, Bsc Agronomy attached to the CARP+ SPVC from March to August 2018.
I learnt about the existence of CARP+SPVC through Prof. Antony Kibe who, the project Principal investigator (who was also our lecturer) when he took us on a trip to Timau (Kisima Farm) during their field day (February 2018). During this trip, different potato technologies were exhibited. It was my first time I came across a potato storage facility (cold storage) at the expansive seed potato farm. Different varieties of potato such as shangi, jelly, dutch robin and sherekea and their uses ranging from chips, crisping and table were exhibited during the event. I also learnt about potato value addition such as making of potato chips, crisps and flour. Doing this increases the shelf life of the harvested potato and increases value immensely. Following this exposure, I developed an interest in being part of the project team. Through the PI, I applied for internship and qualified after a thorough interview. I was happy to join other students from TAGDev (sponsored by MasterCard) who gladly welcomed me to the project.
As an intern in the project, I have participated in various project activities. The project established several demonstrations plots on farmers’ fields starting from Likia (Mau) to Kasambara (Gilgil). During the establishment of the demos, the training session offered by different experts in potato agronomy were very enlightening for me. I was able to learn the correct way of timely land preparation, spacing requirements, fertiliser application and diseases and pest management.
Crop management is a key issue in potato production. For optimum yields, the crop should be taken good care of in terms of weeding, topdressing, pest and disease control. Other cultural practices such as earthing up should be done to ensure tuber expansion as well as irrigation when need arises. The biggest threat to potato production we experienced this season (March-Aug 2018) was early and late blight casued by Phytophthora infestans. It was a challenge to apply fungicides such as metalaxyl and mancozeb every week for control. Even then, it was a good learning experience for me to participate in calculatiion of application rates and monitoring how much of each chemical was applied. In addition to disease management, I came to learn potato requires nutrients such as potassium for a strong skin to avoid peeling off especially during harvesting. Post-harvest storage can also be enhanced by dehaulming about two weeks before harvesting. This practice is common in seed potato production to regulate the seed size. In addition to this, I was happy to offer my skills in agronomic data collection.
Apart from learning, I observed that most of the farmers we worked with were resource poor. Perhaps explaining why they did not invest much in inputs such as clean seed, fertiliser and pesticides and fungicides for management of their crop. Due to these factors, they often realise poor yields and consequently low incomes. For those who can afford the inputs especially clean seed, they have to travel for long distances to collect the quality seeds from the rare producers such as ADC (Agricultural Development Corporation) Molo. Majority of the farmers especially those far from the facility are not always willing and able to go collect certified seeds and they would rather plant their own saved seeds. Most farmer groups have both elderly and young farmers; most of these young farmers (mostly composed of women) have young ones and therefore spend most of their time nursing them hence spend less time in the fields. This was evident during our field activities with farmers where the majority of women who attended participated less due to the fact that they were nursing. Another challenge experienced is poor impassable roads; at times we were forced to walk for a distance.
CARP+SPVC as a project has really helped many farmers understand the significance of planting potato not only for subsistence but also for commercial purposes. And though I am coming to the conclusion of my four year course at Egerton University, I must say that I am truly delighted to be part of this project and would be glad to continue working in it to transform the livelihoods of our potato farmers in Nakuru.
Story by Mercyline Jerusa Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness Management, Egerton University
Mercyline Jerusa is a Kenyan. She is pursuing masters of Science in Agri-enterprise development at Egerton University under the Mastercard ruforum scholarship award. As part of her postgraduate degree requirement, she is expected to conduct an impactful research and publish at least two articles. Mercyline is among the TAGDev students who we reallocated a research project under the CARP+ Seed Potato Value Chain Analysis(SPVCA)project. She intendeds to conduct the research on profitability analysis for the apical stem cutting technology and other technologies that are used in seed potato minituber production. This study may help to improve adoption and commercialization of the most appropriate seed potato multiplication technology among the smallholder farmers and the youth. Successful adoption and commercialization is expected to improve availability and access to quality seed potato by the smallholder farmers, improve productivity, create employment and contribute towards food security.
In order to identify the real problem and comeup with realistic objectives for a community action research, Mercyline has gained exposure through interaction with various stakeholders in the Seed Potato Value Chain within Nakuru county and even countrywide by attending various forums which were organized by the SPVCCARP+project.Some of the forums she participated in include baseline training, potato production, baseline survey in different regions, National Potato Council of Kenya field days in Molo (Sirikwafarm) and Nyeri(Wambugufarm), farmers fieldday in Elbergon and Kisima region and also SPSS and STATA data analysis training.
Objectives for attending the various spvc forums
- To conduct baseline survey
- To meet and identify and interact with the relevant stakeholders in line with her study
- To identify the actual problem on the ground prior to research
- To identify the most appropriate institutions for data collection
As a result of attending the various forums organized by the SPVC CARP+ project, Mercyline has been able to gain knowledge, skill and experience in;
- Baseline survey
- Knowledge in ware potato production agronomy
- Different seed potato production technologies-apical stem cutting, aeroponics, hydroponics and conventional method
- Challenges faced in various seed potato production technology
- Interaction with various stakeholders within the seed potato value chain especially minituber production and multiplication actors
- Selecting the data analysis models for the research objectives, data coding by SPSS, data analysis by STATA .
- Writing the problem and objectives of her study
The photos below were captured when she was attending some of the forums that are mentioned
The forums organized by the seed potato value chain have played a significant role in my proposal. The information gathered has enabled me to come up with research objectives which are expected to produce significant results that can be implemented to improve access and availability of quality seed potato to small scale farmers.
- Mastercard foundation
- TAGDev at Egerton University
- Seed Potato Value Chain (SPVC) CARP+ project team