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Story by Millicent Wasolo; 4th Year student, Bsc Agronomy attached to the CARP+ SPVC from March to August 2018.

I learnt about the existence of CARP+SPVC through Prof. Antony Kibe who, the project Principal investigator (who was also our lecturer) when he took us on a trip to Timau (Kisima Farm) during their field day (February 2018). During this trip, different potato technologies were exhibited. It was my first time I came across a potato storage facility (cold storage) at the expansive seed potato farm. Different varieties of potato such as shangi, jelly, dutch robin and sherekea and their uses ranging from chips, crisping and table were exhibited during the event. I also learnt about potato value addition such as making of potato chips, crisps and flour. Doing this increases the shelf life of the harvested potato and increases value immensely. Following this exposure, I developed an interest in being part of the project team. Through the PI, I applied for internship and qualified after a thorough interview. I was happy to join other students from TAGDev (sponsored by MasterCard) who gladly welcomed me to the project.

As an intern in the project, I have participated in various project activities. The project established several demonstrations plots on farmers’ fields starting from Likia (Mau) to Kasambara (Gilgil). During the establishment of the demos, the training session offered by different experts in potato agronomy were very enlightening for me. I was able to learn the correct way of timely land preparation, spacing requirements, fertiliser application and diseases and pest management.  

Crop management is a key issue in potato production. For optimum yields, the crop should be taken good care of in terms of weeding, topdressing, pest and disease control. Other cultural practices such as earthing up should be done to ensure tuber expansion as well as irrigation when need arises. The biggest threat to potato production we experienced this season (March-Aug 2018) was early and late blight casued by Phytophthora infestans. It was a challenge to apply fungicides such as metalaxyl and mancozeb every week for control. Even then, it was a good learning experience for me to participate in calculatiion of application rates and monitoring how much of each chemical was applied. In addition to disease management, I came to learn potato requires nutrients such as potassium for a strong skin to avoid peeling off especially during harvesting. Post-harvest storage can also be enhanced by dehaulming about two weeks before harvesting. This practice is common in seed potato production to regulate the seed size. In addition to this, I was happy to offer my skills in agronomic data collection.

Apart from learning, I observed that most of the farmers we worked with were resource poor. Perhaps explaining why they did not invest much in inputs such as clean seed, fertiliser and pesticides and fungicides for management of their crop. Due to these factors, they often realise poor yields and consequently low incomes. For those who can afford the inputs especially clean seed, they have to travel for long distances to collect the quality seeds from the rare producers such as ADC (Agricultural Development Corporation) Molo. Majority of the farmers especially those far from the facility are not always willing and able to go collect certified seeds and they would rather plant their own saved seeds. Most farmer groups have both elderly and young farmers; most of these young farmers (mostly composed of women) have young ones and therefore spend most of their time nursing them hence spend less time in the fields. This was evident during our field activities with farmers where the majority of women who attended participated less due to the fact that they were nursing. Another challenge experienced is poor impassable roads; at times we were forced to walk for a distance.

 CARP+SPVC as a project has really helped many farmers understand the significance of planting potato not only for subsistence but also for commercial purposes. And though I am coming to the conclusion of my four year course at Egerton University, I must say that I am truly delighted to be part of this project and would be glad to continue working in it to transform the livelihoods of our potato farmers in Nakuru.

About CaWSA

The CaWSA- Centre showcases various water conservation, storage, abstraction and distribution systems and soil and moisture conservation technologies, innovations and management practices (TIMPS).

Get In Touch

Prof. Anthony M. Kibe,

CaWSA – Centre Coordinator
Crops, Horticulture and Soils Department, Egerton
University, Njoro, Kenya.

Email: akibe@egerton.ac.ke,
+254721402957

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