Production and adoption of clean seed potato (Solanum tuberosum) by small scale farmers in Njoro Sub-county, Kenya

Potato (Solanum tuberosum) is the world’s most important root and tuber crop. It is a staple food crop for many families in East Africa, both in rural and urban. This is partly due to its competitive advantage over other food crops. For example, potato fits in the double cropping seasons common with the rainfed systems in most African countries. The potato value chain in Kenya employs over 3.3 million people as growers, traders and processors. However, potato production in Kenya has continued to face a number of challenges despite its increasing importance in terms of consumption and income. Most potato farmers in Kenya rely on farmer saved seed potato which they either save from the previous harvests, or buy from nearby open markets and neighbours. In most cases these seeds are highly degenerated, infested with pests and diseases and with low yielding capacity which keeps productivity below the optimum. In order to increase potato yields in Kenya and ultimately improve food security and incomes of farmers, there is a need for farmers to access and use high quality clean seed potato. However, there is generally low adoption of clean seed in Kenya. This study examined production and adoption of clean seed potato using a case study of Njoro Sub-county, Kenya. Data were collected using a researcher-administered questionnaire containing closed ended dichotomous and polytomous questions as well as open-ended items. Prior to data collection, reliability of the questionnaire was determined through pilot testing with 33 small scale potato farmers from Lare Ward. Changes were made to the questions after piloting for ease of understanding guided by the experience during the piloting exercise. Cronbach’s alpha reliability test, u, was used to measure reliability which was accepted at a correlation coefficient of 0.7038 (2.7). Cleaned data was organized and coded according to study objectives and analysed using descriptive statistics that included percentages, frequencies, measures of central tendency and standard deviation. Only 12 percent of the respondents were considered as adopters of clean seed potato while over three quarters (88%) were considered as non-adaptors of clean seed potato. Factors associated with adoption were level of formal education attained by respondents, distance between the farms and the source of seed potato, and belonging to farmer groups. The study recommends training of farmers in commercial clean seed potato production which would reduce the distances traveled by farmers in search of seed potato. This might increase adoption of growing clean seed potato. The study also recommends that agricultural extension officers help farmers to form groups for collective action. Belonging to farmer groups might help farmers to adopt clean seed potato that may help them improve potato productivity and enhance their standards of living.
Region Focus: 
East Africa
RUFORUM Working document series
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Open Access
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Web resource