The Co-operative Bank’s crop-focused initiative through capacity building for farmers in their cultivation and production fields has proven successful in realizing a bumper harvest and securing a ready market for their produce.
This was evidenced after a successful field experience for potato farmers in Nyeri County under the auspices of Cooperative Bank joining forces with other relevant players in the potato production value chain in a rare “Potato Consortium”.
Partnering with the host county government of Nyeri, Co-operative Bank also tapped into the expertise of Yara E.A, Bayer E.A and Agrico PSA during last Friday’s potato consortium, which emerged as a game-changer for potato farmers, as key players in the potato value chain concluded a major step towards realizing ‘farm-to-plate’ value chain model.
The bank will finance the potato crop cycle and fund farmers throughout the production, harvest and post-harvest exercises, geared towards boosting farmers in their quest to access machines and transport the products in time, thus preventing rotting and reducing post-harvest losses by 50 per cent in the next two years.
It has also unveiled a training program titled ‘Co-op Consultancy’ to facilitate farmers on how to be efficient and earn better returns in the supply of potatoes, a crop classified among Kenya’s top five cash crops, by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS).
The consortium aims to reduce potato imports which lock local farmers from the international market, leading to wastage and subsequent loss of income.
From the pilot Nyeri field experience, Kenyan farmers are staring at a possibility of supplying potatoes to the renowned American fast food giant, KFC, thanks to the intervention of Co-operative Bank and partners who agreed to boost farmers venturing into the profitable and sustainable cash crop farming.
From the Consortium, players witnessed the harvesting of potatoes in the first Demonstration Farm in Kieni Sub-county in Nyeri, whereby project assumptions, projections on yield per unit area as per the prescribed nutrition, crop protection and crop husbandry were put to test.
The farm demo fully succeeded in achieving desired standards, which saw Simplifine Limited, a food processor contracted by KFC to provide processed potatoes, approved as the official buyer of the potato produce from the local farmers.
Simplifine, which also stayed through the field demonstration, committed to buying directly from the farmers without going through any middlemen, a reprieve for farmers who are normally exploited by self-centered middlemen.
Following input in domain expertise aimed at supporting potato farmers venture into profitable and sustainable potato farming, the Nyeri Consortium came up with a handsome package aimed at realizing results such as high-yielding potato varieties that are in demand by key food processors and retailers including KFC; availing quality inputs at the right time and at affordable prices; agronomic support through extension services embedded within the County Government set-up i.e. use of Ward Agricultural Officers and Co-operative officers; and market-driven production, where farmers plant potato varieties that processors require, thereby undertaking contract farming with predictable off-take prices.
Other desired results are predictable yields based on prescribed package of crop nutrition and crop protection regime, supported by established demonstration farms managed by the consortium partners serving as centers of excellence; capacity-building for farmers’ co-operatives by Co-operative Bank through Co-operative Consultancy Services, to enable co-operatives become vibrant, well governed, efficient and profitable for better returns to the farmers; and affordable financing from Co-operative Bank which is aligned to the potato crop cycle and structured to fund the needs of farmers throughout the production, harvest and post-harvest management.
Furthermore, digitization of the farming, production and marketing processes offer reliable traceability to the consumer and enable all players plan ahead.
In a sweet deal likely to resonate across all farmers in the country, the KFC potato deal is expected to boost incomes and alleviate perennial gluts that have seen their produce rot in stores and farms due to a lack of ready market.
And for KFC, it will be both a boon for its business due to the availability of affordable supplies as well as a market relations coup on the back of the public outrage it faced after it emerged that it sources potatoes from Egypt on account that local varieties are of “poor quality.”
“That potato for consumption by Kenyans had to be imported was a major surprise amidst the perennial woe and cry by Kenyan potato farmers, especially in the potato-glut zone of Nyandarua of lack of market for their produce,’’ potato consortium’s comment read in part.
After a successful Nyeri demo, reports indicate that plans to conduct similar demos in Nyandarua, Elgeyo Marakwet and Nakuru are underway even as the consortium starts enlisting farmers for full-scale production. Co-operative Bank targets enlisting over 30,000 potato farmers by 2026 to boost the lucrative venture.