The article below was first post on the International Potato Center (CIP) blog site. It is republished here with credit and thanks. Blog authors: Nathan Ronoh with contributions from Shadrack Nyawade, Dieudonne Harahagazwe and Victorine Fornkwa.
Potato is an important crop for food and nutrition security in sub-Saharan Africa. However, a cursory glance reveals a glaring challenge facing farmers across the continent: limited access to quality seed potatoes.
The situation is no different in Cameroon, where annual national production is only 300,000 metric tons – well below national demand estimates of one million metric tons. Also, with increased production, Cameroonian farmers could take advantage of export opportunities with neighboring countries, such as Chad, Gabon and the Central African Republic, among others.
However, access to certified or clean seed potatoes is extremely low (
But the recent success in Kenya – supported by the International Potato Center (CIP) – holds great promise for Cameroon and other SSA countries where the potato can play a more key role in solving food and nutrition security issues.
Working with local Kenyan partners, CIP helped build and coordinate production and access to starter materials to produce certified seed from minitubers. These materials include foundation seeds and rooted apical cuttings to produce clean seeds that bring higher yields and present attractive income opportunities for smallholder farmers, especially women. .
To learn more about the Kenyan success story, CIP and the Green Innovation Centers for the Agriculture and Food Sector Project (ProCISA) organized a trip for 12 Cameroonian delegates, including the Institute of Agricultural Research for Development (IRAD), Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MINADER) and private seed producers from different regions to learn about capacity building for first generation seed potato production and field multiplication through to the latest technological and political innovations.
“Kenya is more advanced in terms of seed potato production and capacity. We came to learn and see if we could adopt the models here. Things will change. Organizing seed actors is just the beginning,” said Julie Teh Nguh, Deputy Director of Agricultural Seed Systems at MINADER.
The Cameroonian context
Currently, seed producers in Cameroon import most of their seed from the Netherlands and France for multiplication and sale. However, this seed can only be propagated for two seasons and then becomes unproductive. Moreover, the seeds they produce are often too expensive for most smallholder farmers in the country.
The delegation in Kenya learned the basics of setting up laboratories and systems to produce clean seed potatoes that can be sold at a lower cost, but of higher quality, than imported seed.
At the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), the delegation saw firsthand how tissue cultures in the lab were produced in bulk and distributed to enable growers to increase the amount of seed available. . As a result, Kenyan farmers have noticed a sharp drop in bacterial wilt in their potato crops.
“It all starts in our laboratory. We can’t fail at this point… “As the demand for clean seed increases, seed growers will need tissue culture material quickly and in large quantities. We need to multiply quickly and under the best aseptic conditions. I need to update my team on the lessons I learned from this trip,” said Rauwitta Omabit, tissue culture specialist at IRAD.
After the lab tour, the delegation visited Kisima Farms, a private seed production farm in Meru County that uses aeroponics to produce seed potatoes, and Stockman Rozen Kenya, another private company that works with rooted apical cuttings and other local growers to mass produce. clean seed.
In Kenya 15-25 tubers can be produced per apical cutting, which can then be multiplied up to three times in the field.
“My first action will be to build a greenhouse. I want to start doing business with top cuttings of seedlings and supply them to farmers. The other technology, such as aeroponics, will require longer term planning,said Norbert Kenfack, the president of PROPOTEM, a farmers’ cooperative in western Cameroon.
Market favorite varieties
But clean seed for improved production is not enough. High yields will not solve food and nutrition security problems if the varieties produced are not purchased on the market.
KALRO has made available to farmers high-yielding, climate-smart varieties selected by CIP based on market research that predicted their popularity. Unica is the new favorite variety for farmers, but they have more options to choose from.
“We also need to develop and improve local varieties. We need competitive varieties. Many of our varieties are important, said Clement Wara, a private seed grower.
“We would like Unica and other CIP varieties to be added to our national catalog.”
Finally, the Cameroonian delegation was advised to promote the formation of farmer groups to accelerate the dissemination of innovative ideas and varieties within communities.
Wachira Kaguongo, CEO of the National Potato Council of Kenya (NPCK), said their success was largely due to farmer-led clean seed marketing and promotion efforts. And that digital platforms were available to develop and organize information;
“Our Viazi Soko (website) provides information on the end-to-end value chain, from production to marketing of the potato, as well as a weather advisory service for all stakeholders. Through this platform, farmers can place seed orders in advance, and NPCK will arrange scheduled deliveries,” Kaguongo said.
The Cameroonian team spent a total of five days in Kenya, gaining key insights to create a recipe for success in boosting potato production in their country through careful capacity building and partnerships.
CIP would like to acknowledge and thank the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) for their generous support of potato research in Cameroon.
Source: International Potato Center (CIP). Original article here
Cover picture: Visit of the Kisima farm of the Cameroonian team, Meru. Courtesy of the International Potato Center for Sub-Saharan Africa. Other photos of the visit are available here.