Awareness creation of new potato varieties

The most commonly grown potato variety among farmers in the country is Shangi. The adoption rate of this variety is very high. Some farmers cite its short dormancy period as the main reason for choosing it over other varieties. But the majority says its popularity among fellow farmers as the major reason for adopting it. So, farmer A uses it because famer B uses it too and when farmer C gets into potato farming, they will choose Shangi since farmer A and B are using it and the trend continues. This is because farmers pass information and even the seeds (i.e. farmer saved seeds) to one another.   However, rarely do farmers take time to explore and learn about other available varieties or even try them out on a small scale in order to objectively compare potato varieties available in the market. Over-reliance on a single product in any industry including in the potato sector is very risky. Diversification to other varieties will help cushion farmers against risks associated with relying on one variety. Such risks include disease outbreak which can affect a particular variety in a specific region or the entire potato sector. There are over 50 potato varieties listed on the 2019 potato varieties catalogue

The NPCK has been partnering with other institutions during various forums like the National potato conference, regional trade fairs and marketing forums to educate farmers on the availability of other varieties with equally unique positive attributes which they can consider and adopt. In addition, The Potato Council publishes a potato variety catalogue every two years with most recent one being published in 2019 that has a total of 60 varieties. The catalogue describes the varieties in terms of their use, tuber features, maturity period, yields, as well as disease and pest resistance.

In a similar effort to further promote uptake of the new varieties, NPCK in collaboration with Viazi kings Ltd, a privately owned company mandated to distribute quality farm inputs to potato farmers as well as buy ware potato from farmers, recently had a meeting with potato farmers in Nakuru County. The goal was to discuss the challenges experienced in potato production including adoption of new varieties as well coming up with workable

solutions. It was clear that uncertainty about the marketability of the new varieties, intense management requirements coupled with long distances between farmers and most seed producers are some of the challenges faced by farmers in adoption of the new varieties.

Among the outcome of the meeting included signing of contracts on potato purchase of the new varieties by Viazi kings from the farmers. This will provide the farmers with guaranteed market. Further, Viazi Kings will supply the recommended inputs including seed potato, fertilizer and approved agrochemicals. This addresses the aforementioned distance challenge.  Npck will also support the farmers on GAPs and support throughout the production period in order to guide and demystify the myths on “intensive management requirements” about these varieties. Finally farmers will be linked with credit services by NPCK. So far, the farmers have been supplied with 256 bags of 50 Kg seed potatoes.

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