Better storage, better prices
Potato farmers in Kenya are in no rush to sell. A 2SCALE initiative, co-funded by the Irish embassy, is helping to build low-cost stores, allowing farmers to store their harvest until prices are more favorable. Two months of storage (rather than selling immediately after harvest) increases prices by 100 to 150%, and profits by even more.
Eleven stores have been completed. Four more will be built in 2017; three sites have been identified and discussions are ongoing with the communities, who will provide land, labor, and timber for construction. In May, field teams interviewed members of eight farmer groups to assess the impact of the potato stores on the local economy. Feedback was almost entirely positive.
For example, the Kianjogu-Kiambogo farmer group in Nyeri county has won a contract to supply a potato cannery, simply because they had a store and could aggregate efficiently. The group is negotiating similar contracts with other processors. The Kirimara group in Meru is being held up as an example by the county government. The group is expanding storage capacity, and is in discussions with a European investor who could provide financing to set up a small factory to produce potato crisps.
The storage program is part of a package of interventions. New varieties have been introduced, with specific characteristics to meet the requirements of different markets, e.g. chips vs crisps vs table potatoes. More than 1,600 farmers have been trained on production, storage and handling methods. Fertilizer blends, specially formulated for potato, are being tested by farmer groups in three counties.
Photo: “Potato store, capacity 40 tons, built locally from local materials.”