Spreading risk through crop diversification
Currently, maize is by far the most dominant crop in Western Kenya. However, margins are small, and relying on a single crop makes farmers vulnerable. In order to be able to shift from subsistence farming to commercial farming crop diversification is a must. Therefore, Agrics has selected three new crops to pilot in 2018: soya, sorghum and potatoes.
Shortage of seed potatoes creates opportunities
The market for Irish (white) ware potatoes is growing fast because of increasing demand from the fast-food and hotel industries in the urban areas. One of the primary problems though, in the potato value chain in Kenya, is the huge shortage of certified seed potatoes. Moreover, most farmers use basic production and post-harvest management practices, resulting in small quantities and poor quality of marketed potatoes.
Sorghum: rising demand for this versatile crop
Sorghum is typically grown by small-scale farmers and is mainly used for home consumption, although commercial demand has risen steeply in the past 7 years, mainly from breweries. However, the rural supply chain is underdeveloped and many smallholders in East Africa are reluctant to grow sorghum due to knowledge gaps on production, utilization and processing of sorghum as well as limited access to quality seeds and off-taking arrangements.
The regions we will focus on during our pilot are Siaya and Busia. These counties are particularly interesting because of their soil and amounts of rain. The establishment of a brewing plant in the near town of Kisumu makes sorghum an attractive commercial venture.
Soybeans: queen of intercropping
Despite the high demand for soybeans in Kenya, the rural supply chain is underdeveloped and many smallholders are reluctant to grow them due to knowledge gaps on production, utilization and processing as well as limited access to quality seeds and off-taking arrangements.
Soybeans are very well suited for both intercropping and crop rotation schemes. It fits various intercropping systems, with maize, cassava, sorghum, banana, sugar-cane, rubber, oil palm, coconut and fruit-trees. For the pilot Agrics starts in the regions of Siaya, Busia, and Butere. In these regions quite a number of farmers can be indicated as early adaptors.
In the first phase several varieties of the crops will be tested on the Agrics research station. In the next phase, we will select farmer groups that performed well in 2017 to pilot the potatoes, the sorghum and soybeans. These farmers will receive agronomic training, guaranteed off-taking and extension support to understand any challenges and key success factors.