In early 2014 Base Titanium introduced a new concept to Kwale farmers and set out to establish if potatoes could be successfully grown in the region. Through enormous efforts by local farmers under the guidance of agricultural specialists from Syngenta, B4D, Kwale County Government and DEG, the potato trials proved that good yields could be realised.
Progress in Kwale has not been without its challenges with farmers having to learn many new techniques, work hard preparing the fields for planting and then coping with weeds and a host of new crop pests. The result of all these efforts and this hard work is none the less outstanding. All can now be confident of potatoes being a valuable additional crop for Kwale farmers.
Commercialisation of potato farming commenced in 2018 as more trials of five new varieties were carried out in 2015, ‘16 and ‘17 as a result of unavailability of older genetics in the market. Of these varieties, two were confirmed suitable for cultivation in Kwale’s hot and humid climate, with proven yields of more than two tonnes per acre. This follows planting conducted by ten farmers in Kubo South and Kinondo Wards. Farmers were able to sell all their produce in local markets in Ukunda, Kikoneni and Msambweni.
40 farmers have been targeted for planting of these varieties in 2019, which are better accepted amongst the public for taste and cooking qualities.
As usual challenges have been experienced as this crop is labour intensive, especially in land preparation, and expensive to grow. The margins, however, have proven to be attractive.