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Government organization to train potato growers on seed development to curb shortage

potato seed cuttings

The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service is set to conduct a training course for potato growers in the country from 12th to 16th August 2019 to bridge the current deficit of certified seeds which stand at five per cent against a target of 10 per cent.

“Kenyan farmers currently experience a shortage of certified potato seeds with more than 80 per cent  using recycled seeds in their production, this has stagnated production at seven tons per hectare against a potential of 40 tons,” said Esther Kimani, the Chief Executive Officer at KEPHIS.

“The training targets public and private agriculture professionals working in the potato seed development, production and supply. These include employees of seed companies, seed and ware potato growers, universities and colleges responsible for capacity building, agriculture extension officers responsible for seed potato supply and those who want to venture into the potato business,”

The total cost of the training will be Sh99,000 inclusive of meals (two tea breaks, one lunch, a bag, field trip and training materials.  The fees are payable to KEPHIS KCB Bank account no 1130043959, Karen branch to be paid by 28th June 2019. Applications are made to the Managing Director, KEPHIS, Nairobi where the course will be offered.

Module one for course delivery will include face to face training sessions, laboratory and field practical training sessions and demonstrations.

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Potato seedlings

Concept and technologies to be covered are the seed production process, informal and formal seed systems, integrated management of pests and diseases, quality assurance and seed certification and public private partnerships in potato business.

This will be followed by field visits, approaches to seed production and supply systems and seed quality control.  

The course will provide farmers with an opportunity to exchange and learn new ideas from professionals through potato seed production guidelines.

More than a million farmers in Kenya grow potatoes contributing Sh50bn to the economy each year. In this, small scale farmers contribute 83 per cent of the total production.  

In 2017, Kenyan farmers produced 1.15m tons of sweet potatoes against a potential of eight million tons according to the 2018 Economic Survey Report.

KEPHIS has developed 51 varieties of potato seeds since 2012 to boost production with 17 varieties from Kenyan breeders, 33 from Dutch breeding companies and one from Scotland with imports of 602,450kg of seed.

The Alliance for a Green Revolution (AGRA) reports that on average only about 20 per cent of farmers in Africa use seeds of improved varieties.

However, in the last two years farmers who have used certified seeds have doubled their yields from two million to four million mega tonnes of cereals, soya beans and groundnuts, in monetary terms this has resulted to Sh220bn in incomes for the smallholder farmers.

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