A new project is being rolled out by the government involving the Prisons Department and the National Youth Service (NYS) to take up an active part in production of potatoes. The project will deploy 30,000 inmates and 50,000 NYS servicemen and women to take up potato seed production. The project comes at a time where potato imports have been on the rise as demand also increases. Kenya has been noted to have favorable weather for growing the tuber as well as the necessary skills available.
The project was recently launched by Interior CS Fred Matiang’i alongside his Public Service counterpart Margaret Kobia beginning with a seed production centre at the 350-acre Tumaini NYS station in Nyandarua county. Among other benefits to be achieved by the project is feeding thousands of inmates and NYS recruits.
With one of the hindrances to potato farming being lack of quality seeds, the project is going to raise certified seed production from three per cent to 10 per cent of the demand by next year. This is also going to help in meeting its targets of raising production from 275 metric tonnes to 4390 tonnes.
The National Potato Council of Kenya says that only 160,000 hectares of land is under potato farming and 83 per cent of this is done by small scale farmers. Zeinab Hussein, the Correctional Services principal secretary said potatoes were chosen as they are the second largest staple food of Kenyans after maize. Head of farming enterprises at the prisons department, Patrick Kariri said the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate and Kenya Agricultural and livestock Research Organization are also involved in the project