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Machine that can till, plant, spray and harvest potatoes

By ANTONY GITONGA | March 21st 2015 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

Potato farmers have received a major shot in the arm. A German NGO, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale (GIZ), has unveiled a one-of-a kind machine that can till, spread fertiliser, plant, spray and harvest potatoes.

GIZ national coordinator Jackson Muchoki, says the machine from Germany is an asset to farmers because it will reduce production costs by 50 per cent.

“Once a farmer embraces it, the cost of production is set to go down significantly,” he explains.

“The machine which is basically a combined harvestor, can be adjusted to plant, spray fertiliser and harvest potatoes. We have harvestors for crops like maize, but we have never had one for potatoes. This is the first of its kind,” says Muchoki.

To operate the machine, he explains that, what the machine needs is fuel and occasional servicing and maintenance.

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The machine sells at Sh2 million but it can be hired at a cheaper price, Muchoki explains.

Other benefits

It is faster and can work on acres of land as long at it has fuel and is in good working condition.

“To prepare an acre for growing potatoes costs Sh18,000 when one does it manually. But when a farmer uses this machine, the cost comes down to Sh6,000.”

“When harvesting potatoes manually, 25 per cent of the harvest is lost, but with this machine, 99 per cent of the produce is harvested,” Muchoki says.

Any qualified driver can drive the machine and they can be taught how to adjust the specific settings.

Muchoki says the machine is a major boost to potato farmers, because it will address the problem of poor farming methods and soil fertility which have lead to low production.

Other than that, Muchoki notes that 95 per cent of seeds that farmers are using are not certified.

Save costs

“Farmers have the potential of producing 30 tonnes per acre like Egypt and South Africa if the issue of seeds and mechanised farming is addressed,” he says.

Nyandarua County is the leading producer of potatoes in the country with 30 percent of the produce coming from the region.

Elmar Schulte from GIZ projects that the country’s annual production will rise by 50 per cent in ten years if the challenges facing the farmers are addressed.

“Kenya has around 8,000 farmers producing potatoes in 150,000 acres with an annual production of 1m tonnes as the sector grows by 3 percent annually,” he says.

Elmar says despite Nyandarua leading in potato production, the quality of the produce is poor.

“Many high end and tourists hotels are importing their potatoes from Belgium, South Africa and Holland where the quality is high,” he says.

He is confident Kenya will attain its position as a leading potato growing country if the issue of seeds, diseases, storage and marketing are fully addressed.

Nyandarua County Executive officer in charge of Agriculture Agatha Wamuyu welcomes the mechanised farming.

“The cost of production will go down because labour is taken care of,” she says.

 


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