Potato Value Chain Capacity Building Project

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In December 2022, the Potato Value Chain Capacity Building Project (PCB) closed after five years of successful implementation. The pilot project was implemented by the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC) from 2018 to 2022 and funded by the Irish government through the Embassy of Ireland in Kenya. The project used a public-private partnership (PPP) approach, integrating various components to attain a sustainable increase in potato productivity, strengthen the potato seed sector, and raise income for potato smallholder farmers in Nyandarua County. This was to be achieved through providing farmer education, strengthening the potato seed supply chain, and facilitating market and input linkages. Following the PPP approach, the project forged key partnerships with 10 agroinput companies; six soil nutrition, soil health, and soil fertility companies; four development partners; three research institutions; three organized market actors; and two seed companies in Kenya. PCB also forged partnerships with private sector firms,such as Donegal Investment Group, IPM, and the government institutions Sustainable Food Systems Ireland (SFSI) and Teagasc. Through these agreements, the project leveraged the private sector firms’ and organizations’ own interests and investment opportunities to drive more inclusive growth along the potato value chain. The project interventions, focused on four thematic areas, improved the livelihoods of 6,541 smallholder farmers (62.7% female, 37% men, and 33% youth) directly and 12,379 (51.9% female) indirectly, against a target of 4,500. Through adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices and improved technologies in potato production, productivity increased significantly to an average of 90 50-kg bags per acre from a baseline average of 34 bags per acre, an increase of 165% (compared to the project target of 50%). Net income from potato farming among farmers increased to Ksh 185,430 per household per season from a baseline value of Ksh 69,785, an increase of 166%. This has led to improved livelihoods and an increase in farmers’ ability to meet their basic needs. Though there has been a reduction in the land size under potato cultivation of individuals due to the steady population growth rate, the overall proportion of land under potato increased from 33% at baseline to 38% at the end of the project. This is because more farmers are now willing to venture into potato farming and existing farmers are expanding their area under potato because of the increased productivity and income they are realizing. In the five-year implementation period, the project worked with Kirinyaga Seed Limited and was able to introduce three new potato varieties into Kenyan markets. Java variety has already been certified by Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS). Bulking and commercialization of this variety were heavily affected by drought occurring in the country for the last couple of years Potato Value Chain Capacity Building (PCB) Project | End-of-Project Report 2 because of climate change. Maverick and Buffalo have been certified by KEPHIS and are awaiting gazetting. The end-term evaluation report showed that there was a significant increase in farmer adoption of existing varieties, such as Shangi. This was the result of two major outstanding characteristics with regard to yield and marketability. To ensure that farmers have access to clean and certified seeds of this locally dominant variety, the project injected 130 metric tons (mt) of certified seeds and made 33,804 mt of clean seeds available. This led to an increase in the uptake of clean seeds from 33% to 61% and certified seeds from a baseline of 7% to 18% after multiplication. There was a significant decline in the use of recycled seeds from 60% at baseline to 21% at the end of the project. The average distance required to access clean seed was reduced to 1.9 kilometers (km). The adoption of clean and certified seeds has led to an increase in productivity because farmers can access and afford the seeds without traveling far. By integrating nutrition through training on kitchen gardening and planting of fruit trees, the household dietary diversity score (HDDS) score increased from 6.4 to 7.1, meaning that households consumed an average of about 7 food groups out of the possible 12, an increase from 6.4 at baseline. Most of the vegetables consumed were sourced from their own farm or kitchen garden, an initiative promoted by the project to address the level of malnutrition in Nyandarua, which is above the national average of 26%. With regard to good agricultural practices (GAPs), 96% of the farmers confirmed having received training on these. Adoption levels increased from 18% at baseline to 55% at the end of the project, with crop rotation, proper spacing, and the use of certified and clean seeds driving the change. To address post-harvest losses, the project supported the construction of storage facilities, with 24.5% of the farmers adopting this technology. This led to a decrease in post-harvest losses from 40% at the baseline to 8% at the end of the project. Thus, farmers are now getting more returns from their potato enterprises. Through trainings conducted by the project, women have been empowered, with 99% reporting to have decisionmaking autonomy, especially on how they spend income, the farming methods they use, what crops are grown and where on the land, and sales of farm produce. Through the Farmer Field Business School (FFBS) model, 104 lead farmers were trained on GAPs and they have gone on to train others. This extension model has greatly impacted the surrounding community members and households, as the trained farmers can share the knowledge with their neighbors. One of the major lessons learned is that investment in seed multiplication is risky because of farmers’ low demand and lack of willingness to pay for seed potato every season. Potato Value Chain Capacity Building (PCB) Project | End-of-Project Report 3 There is a need to engage sources of sector-wide leadership and advocacy, especially when it comes to policy issues around seed certification and sector regulation, because the process of seed production and multiplication is long and expensive. PCB has demonstrated the importance of the PPP model in the delivery of certified seeds, extension services, and soil health technologies to farmers as well as the construction of storage facilities. Another lesson learned is that there is a need to integrate the private sector for upscaling the technologies. During the learning events, it was evident that knowledge is scattered, so there is a need to package this information appropriately and develop strategies for dissemination and incorporating information and communications technology (ICT) because most farmers have mobile phones. Through the project, the need to determine ways to address transactions that are not handled by offtakers was identified, since 95% of ware potato goes to the market through this unregulated marketing channel. One of the recommendations stemming from this is that initiatives to improve the knowledge and business practices of traders/brokers should be piloted in Nyandarua. Projects that avoid working with brokers/traders will significantly limit their results. However, engaging the brokers to improve their business practices to be more transparent and to enforce quality standards is a significant challenge. Future programs should pilot several interventions through an iterative design process to identify how to best support the trading function and shift incentives to improve unstructured market transactions. Based on the final evaluation, utilization of the constructed storage facilities was low. The project recommends that the construction of storage facilities should be done in conjunction with operationalization trainings, so that farmers can make maximum use of the stores in a commercially viable way. Further, exit strategies and sustainability models need to be incorporated early in the life of the project and involve both the public and private sectors. Integrating the private sector in upscaling technologies is key. One of the major challenges faced by the project was that its implementation was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which persisted for over 18 months. Government restrictions affected international and local movement and the implementation of the FFBS model, which used a group approach for training. To overcome this, the project digitized the training curriculum through the Arifu platform. This ensured that members continued to get training and advice online through e-extension. The end-of-project evaluation concluded that the project was relevant and well designed. Itshowed that the interventions had positive results that fed into the overall project goal. In terms of project efficiency and value for money, the evaluation considered PCB a pilot project, with a focus on productivity, linkage to markets and inputs, strengthening the seed production and supply chain, Potato Value Chain Capacity Building (PCB) Project | End-of-Project Report 4 and institutional capacity building. The project, therefore, had limited resources in terms of time and budget but ambitious reach. The success of the PPPs established under the PCB project have led to partnerships with the government, national research and certification institutions, market offtakers, seed companies, farmers, and farmer cooperatives in Nyandarua County. This demonstrates IFDC’s capability as a convener, private sector partner, grantee capacity builder, and implementation supporter. With the success of these partnerships, IFDC has proved to be an effective partner for implementation support to deliver results effectively and efficiently.
Climate-smart agriculture, Value chains, Smallholder farmers