Seed shortage creates a lifelong venture for potato farmer

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Packed potato seeds.

Anne Chepng’eno, a farmer from Molo is growing potato crops for seeds in a bid to address the current shortage of the seeds helping farmers from all over the country to access them. 

Currently there is potato seed demand of 100,000 tonnes in the country while basic demand by other seed multipliers is 1000 tonnes. Only 5000 tonnes is produced and supplied per year. Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO)  produce 300 tonnes of potato seeds every year for farmers according to Henry Kemjo, Research and Development officer at National Potato Council of Kenya (NPCK).

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In her 60 acres farm she grows potatoes and other crops using a rotational model, which she began in 2005. She acquires her seeds from Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and involves Kenya Plant health inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) in her production system to ensure that her seeds are standard free from diseases.

“I engage experts in every point of my stage of production; from where to plant the seeds, the type of seeds, weeding and harvesting among other agronomical practices,” said Chepng’eno.

“As seed producers and other potato farmers, we are always advised not to plant potatoes on the same spot in the nest planting season to prevent any disease infection and improve soil fertility.”

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In a given season she grows potato in 20 acres of her land while the rest are occupied with other crops such as peas, maize, and some fodder crops.

Chepng’eno who used to grow Dutch, Kenya Karibu, Tigoni and Sangi varieties of potato has in the recent years singled on Sangi as this variety has become farmers’ preference due to its desirable qualities.

“Sangi sprouts faster, takes short time to cook and it is also tasty as compared to other potato types raising its market demand making many farmers to grow it,” said Chepng’eno.

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She expects to harvest the next bunch of seeds late January next year to catch up with farmers who target the long rains of March-April-May for planting. “By end of January 2018, my seeds will be ready for farmers who will be planting from March onwards,” she said

In a season Chepng’eno harvests between 80 and 110 potato sacks of 50kg. She sells a kilo at Sh100 after approval by KEPHIS earning her approximately Sh500, 000 per season.

“After certification my potato seeds are labeled and can be sold anywhere in Kenya,” she said.

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She is currently a renowned potato seed producer in Molo who has undergone trainings by the Ministry of Agriculture and certification by KEPHIS. Last year she registered her company, Singus Company Ltd in a bid to win more seed supply tenders.