New release of potato farming ‘encyclopedia’

Tuesday August 31 2021

Most farmers in the region plant potatoes using seed tubers from a previous season. PHOTO | FILE


The potato is increasingly becoming one of East Africa’s food security crop — with Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Ethiopia producing about five million tonnes between themselves.

With more attention being given to potato farming a new book was released in Nairobi on the best way to grow the crop. The book is a collaboration between the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands Deputy Head of mission-Head of Trade and development, Joris van Bommel and Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture PS Hamadi Iddi Boga.

The 112-page book titled, Potato Signals -African edition, is designed to benefit the potato farmer in Africa and is a small handy encyclopedia on potatoes particularly in East Africa.

Research that preceded the book found that most farmers in the region plant potatoes by use of “farm saved seed tubers” from a previous season as propagation material for the next crop, limiting production prospects.

“The potato value chain in East Africa is not well-developed. Availability of good quality seed in the region is very limited. Farmers usually use seed tubers, either from their previous harvests or purchase seed with unknown source from local markets,” said the book.

“Often, they use the best tubers for the local market, while the low-quality tubers are maintained as starting materials for the next crop. This is a very important yield limiting factor,” added the book.


The potato has grown in importance — both as a staple food and as a source of farmers’ incomes — over the past few decades with production more than doubling in the past 20 years.

Over the decades, production in the sub-Saharan region has increased from an annual average of two million tonnes in 1960 to 25 million tonnes now.

In East Africa, the current average potato yield is about 10 tonnes per hectare. However, the new book estimates that with good crop management and adequate inputs, yields should average at between 20 to30 tonnes per hectare in small-scale farming.

The book is available on and is aimed at the dissemination of the right knowledge, technologies and tips and solutions to potato growing challenges.