The government will in July this year launch the Sh23 billion National Agriculture value chain development project geared towards improving neglected value chains like potato, pyrethrum, coffee and cotton.
Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives Cabinet Secretary (CS) Peter Munya said that rolling out the project would be easy because the money is already available, all the negotiations have been done, and signing of the required instruments to access the money done.
Munya said that what is remaining is to work with counties to start rolling out the programmes under the project which would largely focus on commercialization of value chains, market linkages, agricultural infrastructure development, providing credit to farmers as well as providing quality and affordable farm inputs.
Speaking at Kilimo House Friday during the inauguration of the National Potato Taskforce, Munya said that potato is one of the key crops to be supported by this project as a strategic crop that would play a major role in improving food security under the governments “Big Four” Agenda.
The CS highlighted that in the tea sector, they were going to especially deal with old tea bushes that awee no longer productive and replace them with the help of tea research institutions.
“Cotton is very key since it holds the potential to transform the drier parts of the country. We have done a lot of work in the value chain which includes the approval of BT cotton which we have already started the process of commercialization across the country,” said Munya.
To tackle the challenge of trying to acquire seeds from other countries, Munya said that they have asked the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) to come up with high breed cotton varieties of our own which would also apply for other value chains so that as a country we are self-sustainable and food secure.
“Kenya relies mainly on its agriculture for socioeconomic development and progress. On average, agriculture contributes over 25 percent of the GDP directly, and 45 percent of government revenue. Furthermore, it employs 18 per cent and 70 per cent of formal and informal employment in Kenya respectively,” said Munya.
He highlighted that the potato crop is the second most important food crop in Kenya after maize and is grown by close to one million smallholder farmers. 90percent of potatoes are grown on smallholdings on less than half an acre of land.
Munya said that it employs about three million people along the entire value chain, and contributes close to Sh50 billion to the economy.
“In Kenya, it is one of the most consumed produce, acting as a staple food as well as a cash crop, and its production has been growing rapidly due to increased urbanization and fast food industries,” he said.
Munya explained that the potato value chain is currently grown in over 15 counties, the leading being Nyandarua followed by Elgeyo Marakwet. However, it has been beset with numerous challenges including low yields that are largely attributed to climate change, poor agronomic practices, low application of inputs especially fertilizers, low soil fertility, limited access to good quality seeds and exploitative unstructured marketing.
“To reverse this situation, my Ministry has initiated and taken several steps including the formulation and roll out of the Crops (Irish Potato) Regulations, 2019 to provide an enabling environment for the development of the potato value chain. The potato regulations are further aimed at supporting the development of the potato value chain through generation of accurate market information to guide planning and investment, providing farmers with focused production advisory services to meet market standards for produce that is safe and can trade locally, regionally and internationally,” said the CS.
Munya said that to further the concerted efforts in the promotion and development of the potato value chain, it has been found necessary to establish and operationalize the National Potato Taskforce to fast-track the progress in this value chain, and safeguard farmers’ livelihoods amidst a complex trade environment.
Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) Acting Director General Beatrice Nyamwamu said that the authority supports good agricultural practices in the potato value chain so as to ensure that the potatoes that reach the consumers are free from pesticides and other contaminants and ultimately this would lead to low cost of health to consumers.
Nyamwamu said that they have deployed food inspectors across the country and at the border points who support the enforcement of regulations in order to improve compliance.
“The authority is in the process of establishing a data bank for all potato farmers through a digital registry which will have the regional distribution of the farmers with the information helping in making decisions when it comes to subsidy programs as it will have details about the location of framers, size of land and production,” said Nyamwamu.