USAID project improves sweet potato

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FOOD CROPS

Sweet Potato: The combination of new varieties, vine multiplication protocols, and a comprehensive makeover of good agricultural practices is already providing dramatic results in terms of yields, crop quality, and improved incomes for farmers. To date, USAID-KHCP has helped increase farmers’ yields in commercial trials by an average of more than 60% and significantly reduce postharvest losses.

On March 1, USAID-KHCP held a workshop on sweet potato productivity and post-harvest management. Dr. Wilson Songa, the Agriculture Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture highlighted the 26% growth rate in the national crop area from 45,000 hectares in 2010 to 57,000 hectares in 2011, and the dramatic 72% increase in estimated national crop output from 400,000 metric tons (MT) in 2010 to 690,000 MT in 2011.

To meet this growing demand, USAID-KHCP is working with the Kenya Agriculture Research Institute (KARI) to develop new, more productive sweet potato varieties. The project is also working with the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) to enhance protocols for multiplication of certified planting material. The workshop updated the public-private partnership strategy for enhancing competitiveness of Kenya’s sweet potato industry and the findings will be incorporated into the draft Root and Tuber Policy under the coordination of the Ministry of Agriculture.

SPECIALIZED EXPORT MARKET PRODUCE

Smallholder Flowers: Access to affordable credit is a major challenge for smallholder farmers wishing to each full commercialization. This month, USAID-KHCP partner Wilmar Agro Ltd signed a memorandum of understanding with Equity Bank to establish a pilot credit facility for 40 smallholder flower growers in Nyeri and Kiambu counties. The credit facility will help farmers expand their flower production and improve the quality of those flowers. With about Ksh 3.9 million ($48,750) in funds, the credit facility will enable farmers to procure improved technologies such as shade nets, drip irrigation systems, soil analysis, improved varieties, and other farm inputs. Wilmar is shipping 120 boxes of flowers weekly to the US, whose market potential for Kenya is expected to grow.

Kenyan flowers increase competitiveness in the Dutch market:

Variety research by Wilmar is increasing smallholder flowers’ competitiveness in the Dutch market with the recently re-introduced Mollucela, a summer flower variety produced by smallholders in Nyeri and Kiambu counties. Attempts to introduce the flower in 2009 failed when the variety proved difficult to grow in the open field due to high disease resulting from heavy rainfall. To address these challenges, USAID-KHCP has introduced a technological package, including a greenhouse tunnel, drip irrigation, soil analysis, and integrated pest management. Eight research and demonstration units were set up and the first flowers were harvested this month in Sagana, Nyeri County.

The quality has been excellent with a total of 828 stems harvested from just two beds, earning one farmer Ksh10, 800 ($135). The flowers were packed and air-freighted to the Dutch auction market. High market prices allowed Wilmar to pay the grower a premium price of Ksh13.50 per flower compared to the average of Ksh10.

Chillies: Production of chillies is steadily spreading into the Kilimanjaro area of Eastern Kenya thanks to USAID-KHCP’s partnership with Woni Vegetable Exporters and Importers (WONI). WONI has established eight nurseries in Oloitoktok to train 350 farmers on production and postharvest management of fresh chillies. The nurseries will establish twelve acres/month under commercial chilli production. Two sites demonstrating the benefits of drip irrigation over the existing basin irrigation in chilli production have been established. WONI plans to buy the fresh chillies directly from farmers year-round and export to Europe and Middle East markets. Fresh chillies are an important new high-value crop to complement the farmers’ rotation with tomatoes, maize, beans, and kales.

TROPICAL FRUITS

Passion Fruit: Access to quality seedlings, particularly around the onset of the long rains, has been a major challenge for passion fruit farmers in Kenya. In response, USAID-KHCP partner, Good Neighbours Community Programme (GNCP) has ensured that they are fully equipped to supply high quality seedlings to farmers this year.

Out of the 73,000 seedlings currently available for planting, 36,000 have already been booked by USAID-KHCP supported farmers in Rift Valley, Nyanza, and Western regions. The Merewet farmers group working with GNCP in Uasin Gishu County sold 1,400 kg of passion fruit to the local market valued at Ksh 111,840 ($1,400).The income is enabling the 35 member group to invest in the expansion of their passion fruit production area as well as purchase quality seedlings from the GNCP supported nurseries. To date, the group has planted 4,500 passion fruit vines equivalent to 6.5 acres, with a projected weekly income of approximately Ksh100,000 ($1,250).

Banana: USAID-KHCP continues to expand tissue culture (TC) banana in Western Kenya through a partnership with Appropriate Rural Development Agriculture Programme (ARDAP) and Western Region Christian Community Service (WRCCS). Together, these organizations have established three acres of TC banana demonstration sites and four nurseries in Vihiga and Busia counties.

The nurseries will supply 50,000 TC banana seedlings annually (of Williams and Uganda Green varieties), targeting more than 400 smallholder farmers in the region who will plant 100 acres for harvest in a year’s time. Bananas are the most important fruit in Kenya for nutrition and income generation, making up 87 percent of traded fruit volumes. Unfortunately, yields are frequently affected by high incidences of disease. The introduction of TC bananas reduces this challenge as it is pest and disease resistant. TC bananas also grow faster, fruiting within 340 days compared to 420 for conventional bananas, have a higher market value, and are rich in vitamins and minerals.

Kenya Horticulture Competitiveness Project

USAID-KHCP is a five-year project designed to increase smallholder farmer incomes through enhanced productivity, crop diversification, and improved market access. Visitwww.GrowKenya.org for more information on upcoming activities and to read our monthly bulletins and success stories. This report is made possible by the support of the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The content is the sole responsibility of Fintrac Inc. and does not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.  

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