KENYA – Kenya has partnered German chemical firm BASF in a project that seeks to address post-harvest losses of potato experienced by farmers in the country.
The trial project will be spearheaded by the Kenya Investment Authority as part of the Unlocking Africa’s Food Potential programme.
According to a report by Kenya Digest, BASF is set to test a storage technology, known as polyurethane, in the leading potato producing region, Nyandarua county before adopting it for other counties.
The project will be championed by technical committee made up of stakeholders drawn from the county government, BASF Africa – lead by vice president Michael Gotsche and the Kenya Investment Authority’s Sheila Nyamweya as the co-ordinator.
The committee is mandated to device a memorandum of understanding that will facilitate construction of horticultural park houses equipped with the modern storage equipment in October this year.
Mr Gotsche said deployment of the technology would pave the way for value-addition as part of the region’s plans to set up seven park houses.
“The biggest challenge that the county must address is the supply of the raw materials. It’s uneconomical to have the park houses with empty cooling systems at any given time.
We cannot talk of storage but ignore processing and we cannot talk of processing and ignore the marketing segment. Our objective is to economically empower the small-scale farmer,” said Mr Gotsche.
According to Mr Gotsche, a modern storage system and sustained supply of raw materials are key towards ensuring that potato processing plants operate to full capacity.
As a leading potato producer in the country, Nyandarua’s potato post-harvest losses stands at 40%, which has been valued at to US$29.97 million annually.
The region produces 550 metric tonnes of potatoes accounting to between 33-35% of Kenya’s total potato output, translating to an estimated US$89.91 million annual learnings for the farmers.
In March last year, the country launched a Potato Capacity Building project funded by Irish Aid to the tune of US$1.14 million through a public-private partnership implemented over a three year period.
Among the major partners of the project include the International Fertiliser Development Centre (IFDC), Kevian Kenya Ltd, a major Kenyan food processing company, and IPM, an Irish company with expertise in certified potato seed production.
Post-harvest losses remain a major challenge towards realising food security in the country – with the project shedding more light to the government’s ambitions to enhance food security as part of the country’s big four agenda.