Potato subsector has a potential to create sustainable employment opportunities for youths and women along the value chain. Potato is grown by up to 800,000 to 1,000,000 smallholder farmers owning about 0.25-5 ha. Potato production area is approx. 120,000-150,000 ha in the country. However, with current productivity levels being less than 10 tons per ha vis-a-vis 40 tons per ha achievable under recommended agronomic practices, coupled with the increasing demand for potato due to expanding and upcoming cities, the industry has great employment potential to further contribute to wealth and food security for the country.
Covid -19 causes a lot of disruptions on job opportunities in the country whereby, many people lose their jobs due to strained economic activities relating to stringent measures put by the ministry of health to combat spread of the novel corona virus. With this came many opportunities for young graduates and youths to venture in the potato growing counties within the country.
These opportunities include:
- Soil Testing Services
Potato is vulnerable crop for nutrient deficiencies; therefore there is need for soil testing to know the available nutrient levels in the farm before planting. This has created employment opportunities for youths, whereby different youths from all potato growing counties within the country have been trained by the Soil Testing Company (Crop nut) in partnership with NPCK to help in carrying out the exercise. After taking the sample and analysis, the youths get paid on delivery of the result.
- Spray Services Provision
Pest and disease control is a crucial management practice in potato production. The management should therefore begin as early as the crops have fully emerged and continue throughout the production period. Most of the agrochemicals used are harmful and can cause long term effects to human being, hence requires someone with know how to help minimise the the long term harmful effects for both human and the environment. This creates employment opportunity for youths in the potato sub sector.
- Seed potato production
Seed potato production has become a challenge for a very long due to low production of certified seeds which cannot meet the demand of the farmers. Therefore, this provides an opportunity for seed production and supporting new seed producers for youths along the potato value chain.
- Scouting for diseases and pests as well as Ware Potato
Scouting for diseases and pests in ware potato is a crucial activity. This helps in improvement of the ware potato quality hence high market value. Therefore, there is need for a specialised personel.Ware potato scouting begins two weeks to harvest. This helps to link farmers to markets.
- Sorting and Grading.
Sorting and grading involves putting of potato together in terms of; size, weight, deformity, variety and colour as well. This is a practice carried out majorly after harvesting. Sorting and grading can be used to determine the marketable size of the potato. It creates employment opportunity where individuals expertees are employed to help carry out the exercise.
- Aggregation at the Collection Centers
With the upgraded Viazi Soko digital platform, there were craetions of various collection centere both for seeds, ware potato and farm inputs within the potato growing counties. This created an opportunity for employment within the sub sector.
- Linkage to Key Bussines Development Services.
The stakeholders in the financial sector also plays a role in the potato industry. They offer financial support to small scale farmers for purchase of inputs and other products. The market linkages whereby farmers are contratced to produce under contract farming for a particular season through memorandum of understandings between the financier , the farmer and the buyer.
- Farmer Level Training
Agriculture as a devolved function to the county government level, getting extension services has become difficult because it has become demand drive. These has created job opportunities for youths with good agricultural know how, whereby they are given chance to educate farmers on the best agricultural practices to be carried out in potato production. This has shaped most farmers to get the appropriate technical advices at their farm level, hence reduces the costs contacting extension officers. Nyandarua county and other potato growing counties are implementing farmer business schools using training materials developed from NPCK.
Photo: A farm service provider giving spray services in Narok County (Spray service and protective kit cost is still inhibitive)