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USAID-supported potato development program in Kenya moves ahead despite COVID-19 crisis

In the last three months (April – June), the potato value chain component of the USAID-supported Accelerated Value Chain Development (AVCD) program has continued implementing field activities, albeit at a slow pace due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Muthoni Njiru reports for AVCD Kenya.

Critical field activities such as seed distribution, establishment of learning farms, field crop management, and training of host farmers and farmer group representatives at the learning farms are ongoing though.

To facilitate the implementation of these critical activities, the project is supporting ward agricultural officers (WAOs) to support farmers remotely. The support includes providing mobile phone airtime and funds to purchase hand sanitizer, soap and water for hand washing, and masks for use while out in the field.

The restriction of movement due to COVID-19 is affecting farming. The restrictions have limited access to farm inputs for  most farmers who usually buy them in major towns away from their households and fields. Also, farm activities are progressing slowly because field activities are now being done by family labour.

The potato component uses a learning farm (LF) approach concept, which provides rural farmers with hands-on experience in potato production technologies by practising a learning-by-doing approach together with the trainers. Dependent on training and continuous peer-to-peer learning, this is currently a challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic.

LFs are designed to demonstrate improved technologies and show farmers how to improve potato yields through the use of quality seed, resilient and improved varieties, pest and disease management, good hilling technologies, post-harvest management and record keeping.

Working with county leadership and WAOs, the team has organized training for small clusters of farmers, observing guidelines issued by county governments. But extra costs are incurred through training of much smaller groups and allowances to WAOs to purchase hand sanitizers, soap and masks. So far, the project having invested approx USD2,250 in these training sessions.

‘Farmers were so excited to have sanitizers and masks, they had only heard about the two items but had never seen or used them. AVCD was the first project to provide these items for us,’ said Rhoda Khamuka, ward agricultural officer, Tongaren Ward, Bungoma.

Source: AVCD Kenya. Read the full report here

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