An official of German Food Partnership (GFP) Mr. Jackson Muchoki (right) explains to Nyandarua Governor H.E. Daniel Waithaka Mwangi about potato planting using modern mechanization during a farmers’ field day at Njabini Agricultural Training College. Also present was Agriculture Minister Hon. Agatha Thuo, Tourism Minister Hon. Peter Gathimba (left) leader of majority at the County Assembly Hon. Mwangi Gichuki (left) and area MCA Hon. Kiiru Gachomba
REMARKS BY H.E. DANIEL WAITHAKA MWANGI, GOVERNOR OF NYANDARUA COUNTY DURING A FIELD DAY ON POTATO MECHANIZATION AT NJABINI ATC, MARCH 13, 2015
Our development partners; i.e. German Food Partnership (GFP) Potato Initiative Africa ( PIA), Grimme Company, MEA LTD, KS KALI, and FMD East Africa
Hon. Members of the County Assembly,
The CEC for Agriculture, Madam Agatha,
Other partners from the private sector,,
Senior Government officers present,
Farmers represented here,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to join you today as we showcase the most modern technology in potato production in Kenya and particularly in our County.
This is the technology that I envision will mark one of my legacies during my first term of office as your Governor.
It is worth noting that technological change is inevitable in a growing economy and for us to develop and do things in a more efficient and profitable way, we must embrace it or risk losing out in the market.
Our fast growing population and the high demand for incomes to meet the daily needs require that we do our farming in a different way from what we have always done in the past.
Indeed, the era of growing potatoes using recycled seeds or even using a fork jembe as the main tool, combined with low levels of inputs is long gone.
We live in an era of modern technology that is effective and has been tested and accepted the world-over.
The new technology involve the use of clean or certified planting materials, appropriate use of quality fertilizers, protecting the crop using the right chemicals and mechanizing most of the farm operations.
Let me mention here that potato is a very important crop to many farmers in Nyandarua and Kenya as a whole as it is a cash crop as well as reliable food crop.
The favourable weather conditions in Nyandarua County enables farmers to produce more than 30% of the annual potato production valued at more than Sh7.8billion.
However, production has remained low as farmers have been using manual labour to produce their potato crop. In addition, farmers have been using recycled seeds from their own farms or sourced from their neighbours.
These seeds usually harbor diseases and pests which further reduce yields and increase production cost. Moreover, most farmers have been using low levels of farm inputs which in most cases have been found to be inappropriate.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The current average rate of potato production in Nyandarua County is 10 tons per hectare. This is far much below the existing potential of 40 tons per hectare which is an indication that many things are not being done correctly.
With the help of development partners and other stakeholders we have identified a number of factors that tend to contribute to this dismal performance. These factors include:
• Low level of mechanization,
• Poor quality of potato seeds,
• Limited application of inputs,
• Poor quality of fertilizers used,
In order to achieve the maximum production potential of 40 tons per hectare, these factors have to be addressed and farmers must use modern technology in farming. This way, our farmers can expect to reap maximum benefit from their potato crop.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Allow me to highlight some of the disadvantages of using hand tools in potato production. As you all know a fork jembe has been the most common and most popular tool used in our farms for cultivation of potatoes and other crops.
This tool has brought untold suffering to our farmers by transmitting potato diseases, damaging tubers during harvesting while leaving others unearthed.
The drudgery in the use of the fork jembe has made many youths shy away from farming hence leaving the tedious job mainly to the elderly and weak parents.
At critical stages of potato growing such as planting, weeding and harvesting, human labour is increasingly becoming hard to get and farmers incur huge losses due to untimely operations. These are just some of the many shortcomings associated with manual cultivation of potatoes.
However, the story is different when it comes to mechanized agriculture. Some of the benefits associated with mechanized agriculture include the following:
• Precision planting which ensures that the recommended plant population is attained,
• Efficient harvesting operation with minimum damage to tubers,
• Timely operations,
• Low level of transmission of diseases since it is possible to disinfect the machines after each farm operation,
• Reduced cost of farm operations among others.
Farmers who have embraced mechanized agriculture and use high quality seeds as well as appropriate inputs are assured of increased production per unit area. They are also assured of lower production cost hence better incomes to the family.
My administration is determined to work in partnership with private players and other development partners to ensure that our farmers are assisted to adopt modern technology in potato production, harvesting and processing to ensure maximum returns from this crop.
Potato mechanization will increase job opportunities in the rural areas contrary to the general belief that jobs will be lost. The simple machines that we are introducing in our county are those that are adaptable to our small and medium scale farms.
The projected increased yields will ensure more potatoes in the market. The surplus will create a need for export, storage and/or processing which in turn will trigger creation of jobs in the export business, storage facilities, and in the processing factories.
By embracing modern technology in farming, we shall have taken big steps towards industrialization. It is my personal believe that this is the direction that we all need to move in and the time to start is now.
In conclusion, may I take this opportunity to thank our partners who saw gaps in the way we grow potatoes and took it upon them to offer technical expertise, time and resources to ensure that our farmers are empowered to do things differently and earn better income.
I am particularly grateful to German Food Partnership (GFP) under Mr. Jackson Muchoki and Potato Initiative Africa ( PIA) under Dr. Elmar for choosing Nyandarua County for this pilot project and for their immense contribution.
My special thanks go to Grimme Company in Germany and FMD East Africa Ltd for offering Nyandarua County a set of specialized potato mechanization equipment for the purpose of showcasing this new technology.
I also wish to thank all the other partners in the project for availing to our farmers quality seeds and other inputs as well as offering vital technical information that has yielded good results.
In a very special way I wish to recognize the important work that K+S KALI in collaboration with MEA Ltd are doing of sampling our soils and blending fertilizers in accordance to the nutritional needs of the soils. This is a very important exercise as it will eventually avail in our markets a fertilizer that is specific to potato production and end the era of using DAP to serve this purpose.
Finally, let me state that my government believes in close collaboration with development partners, entrepreneurs, cooperatives, farmer groups, youth groups, stakeholders and people of goodwill whose aim is to bring positive change to our farmers.
I humbly ask you to identify business opportunities in potato production and offer affordable services to our farmers so that the envisioned dream of this initiative can come true.
I urge all farmers to overhaul their old farming methods and adopt the new methods that we are promoting so as to take full advantage of the benefits involved.
Thank you and May God bless us all.