Potato farming, a lucrative venture for Youth
For the majority of youths in Kenya, urbanization has become a disease. One that is even more precarious than the Covid-19 pandemic. I will tell you why.
Many youths in Kenya have been and are still whining and lamenting about unemployment. Some have gone to extents of threatening the government that they will indulge in heinous activities in order to make their ends meet.
However, as I was perusing through one of the leading newspapers, I came across many opportunities that left me feeling unsettled and wondering why the youth are unable to see and take advantage of the many existing opportunities available.
From the many opportunities I saw, one captured my attention; Potato farming. This is a venture that has enabled many farmers mint millions of shillings over the years. What captivated me more was the disease resistant variety of potato seeds that have been introduced in Kenya by the Kingdom of Netherlands. I am yet to figure out why the youth have not pounced on this lucrative opportunity.
In March 2021, The Cabinet Secretary (CS) in the Ministry of Agriculture, Peter Munya revealed that in 2020, Kenya earned more than Sh7 billion from potato farming. He also said that in 2021, the country would be looking for more markets to increase crop production. This made me reflect and again, and question why the youth are not exploring this space with a potential to realise good returns on their produce, especially when the government has given an assurance of more marketplaces.
When launching the Agrico website https://www.potatopro.com/companies/agrico-east-africa-ltd in Nakuru County, the Netherlands Ambassador to Kenya, Maarten Brouwer urged Kenyan youth to take up potato farming, alluding to the high yield produce which has been enabled by the improved seed varieties. He also made reference to the free potato farming training being offered by Agrico East Africa noting that the opportunity has potential to be a sustainable income source for the youth. “Knowledge sharing is vital and making trainings and demonstrations available for farmers is something huge. It shows how ambitious the project is in promoting potato production in the country.” He said.
The website, which was launched in the presence of Nakuru County CEC for Agriculture, Dr. Immaculate Maina is designed to be a one-stop-shop for Kenyan smallholder farmers working in the potato value chain. The website will enable farmers boost their businesses, connect to relevant networks and follow online tutorials free of charge.
Agrico East Africa is a certified Potato producing company that was set up in 2012, in line with the Kenyan Potato Food Security Policy Roadmap, and with support from the Government of the Netherlands. The company imports seedlings from the Netherlands and propagates to produce about 5,000 tonnes of potatoes annually. These high yield seedlings are available to smallholder farmers countrywide.
The Netherlands is currently the world’s largest exporter of seed potatoes exporting approximately 55% of certified seed potatoes (800,000 tonnes per year) and an estimated 55% of the (improved/ high-yielding) potato varieties used globally are of Dutch origin.
In 2015 the Agroco entered into a joint venture with its Kenyan partner Migotiyo Plantations Limited to further boost international cooperation in the potato value chain.
This move comes against a background of the recent declaration by Agriculture CS, Peter Munya, that the government has enforced regulations to protect potato farmers from middlemen.
The CS indicated that middlemen have been exploiting potato farmers by coercing them to sell at throw-away prices and even forcing them to repackage to meet their demands. He noted that Section 42 of the Agriculture Fisheries and Food Authority Act states that it is illegal to package potatoes in bags of more than 50 kilograms.
After serious reflections on these recent happenings, I hold that the youth should rethink their strategies of ending poverty in Kenya. This notion of ‘serikali saidia’ must stop. In my opinion, devolution has been a phenomenon in our homes. Let’s buckle up and get to work. Farming is just but one opportunity the youth are yet to fully exploit.