Youth in Nandi County have been encouraged to take up opportunities in agribusiness to create self-employment at a time when seven million Kenyan are facing unemployment according to the latest data by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.
In this, the Food and Agriculture Organization in partnership with various government agencies such as the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service and the county government of Nandi is interested in building the capacity of young people through commercial production of potatoes.
“I want to encourage the youth to take up potato farming so as to increase their income, we in collaboration with KEPHIS will produce potato seeds for multiplication by Kaimosi Agricultural Training College before being availed to farmers,” said Gabriel Rugalema, FAO representative in Kenya who spoke at the Kapsabet potato field day.
During the field day, various potato varieties were displayed including sherekea, unica, panamera, challenger, sagitta and Dutch Robyjin.
According to the plant health regulator, only one per cent of potato farmers in the county use official seeds with the rest using re-cycled seeds from their farms and the informal sector thereby leading to low production of the crop.
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Kitale Regional Manager Charles Onyango (in pink shirt) explaining the importance of Kenya Karibu, a potato variety that was on display during the KEPHIS and the County Government of Nandi potato field day. Present were Governor Stephen Sang(right), Food and Agriculture Organization(FAO) Kenya Representative Mr. Gabriel Rugalema(3rd left), Agriculture and Irrigation CAS Dr. Andrew Tuimur(4th left) and other dignitaries during the Nandi potato field day. Looking on is KEPHIS MD Dr Esther Kimani (5th right). Photo. KEPHIS
In Kenya, potatoes are the second most important major cash crop after maize. The crop is grown by over 800,000 smallholder farmers in an industry that supports 3.8m people directly and indirectly. The potato sector in Kenya is worth Sh50bn according to the National Potato Council of Kenya.
The top producing potato counties are Nyandarua (29.8 per cent), Nakuru (18.9 per cent) and Elgeyo Marakwet (16.2 per cent).
Other potato producing regions include Makueni, Embu, Tharaka Nithi, Samburu, Kajiado, Kwale and Tharaka Nithi.
Farmers were urged to stop over reliance on maize and diversify their crop production with production of the hitherto, main cash crop recording a decline in production from 37.4m bags in 2016 to 35.2m bags last year.