Despite being a trained accountant and currently pursuing a Bachelor in Commerce, James Gachiri had a desire to become a successful potato farmer.
This was not unusual as he comes from Nyandarua a county that is the leading producer of potatoes in Kenya. As an informed farmer, he set out looking for certified potato seeds which he knew would give him maximum returns. But he was soon disappointed as there was a shortage of certified seeds and almost gave up.
James Gachiri, a 29 years old farmer and Secretary-General of the Nyandarua Youth in Agri-business Forum:
“I looked for certified seeds in all government institutions like Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) and others but I didn’t get. For about five to six months the seeds were not available and that is when I realized there was a gap in the potato value chain that I could fill.”
“I realized that producing certified seed potato might give me more profit than the normal potato farming and I started seeking advice. There was this perception that it was an expensive venture and that is when I approached the National Potato Council of Kenya (NPCK) for advice.”
“These are potato seedlings that are produced through tissue culture then planted to generate tubers and I came across them at KALRO Tigoni Research Centre. I immediately decided to take up the new method of producing seed potato before everybody gets into it. They gave me 250 cuttings when they saw my interest in the new technology.”
“I am propagating Shangi a local variety and I have to be licensed by KEPHIS and KALRO made the connection. They also didn’t charge me for the soil tests they conducted before I planted and they also gave me a lot of advice.”
“Right now, I am waiting to harvest from the 22 bags and I am expecting about 200 bags. The demand is so high as all the seeds have been booked although I am still on the registration process with KEPHIS as a certified seed producer.”
“I want the youth in Nyandarua to be the drivers of agriculture and that is why we agreed to take this to the youth in the whole county.”
“We formed Nyandarua Youth in Agri-business Forum to share information about all the youths engaged in agri-business in Nyandarua in order to motivate others.”
“We are around 20 and last month we held training about greenhouse farming at Ol-jororok Farmers Training Centre. We want to create a pool of experts in all fields like dairy farming, poultry farming and the rest who can then train the interested youth in the county.”
“I urge the youth to get into groups so that they can get support from various quarters. We are currently engaging with the county government of Nyandarua and so far the departments of youth and that of agriculture have responded positively.”
Gachiri says NPCK supported him and through them, he came to learn of another modern method of propagating potatoes called apical root cutting.
He says that he got a lot of support by Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) who licenses seed producers after meeting the required conditions to ensure the material produced is disease free.
The youthful farmer says the first 250 cuttings gave him 2 bags of potato tubers each weighing 50 kilograms. He planted the tubers and harvested 22 bags.
He also convinced other youths from his Kariamu Village in Kipipiri to join him in the venture and they formed a group. The group with 12 members so far has also planted 2,150 apical cuttings. He says it was difficult to convince them to invest in the new technology but after they saw the interest my farm had generated, they agreed and from contributions, they leased a farm.
Gachiri urges the youth to get into farming pointing out that there are opportunities in mechanization and new technology to those who don’t want to soil their hands in the farm.