According to the International Potato Center (CIP), Potato is currently the second most important food crop after maize in Kenya, grown by 800,000 small scale farmers and generating employment for an estimated 2.5 million people along the value chain. The supply is however lower compared to the demand given the various challenges that most Kenyan potato farmers face such as climate change, pest and diseases, lack of labour and land.
Inspired by his love for farming and the need to increase the potato production supply across the country, Collins Wachira and his partner James Nderui started Jancota Limited, an agribusiness enterprise that specializes in the production of certified potato seeds.
“Jancota Limited is registered under Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) and the National Potato Council of Kenya (NPCK). It specializes in the production of certified potato seeds through the use of apical cuttings technology,” says Collins.
Apical cuttings technology is a rapid multiplication technique from tissue culture that ensures farmers get quality seeds in good time, unlike other conventional methods.
Collins adds that the technique is also sustainable and the turnaround time for the production is faster in that, within a period of one to two weeks, the seedlings are usually ready for planting. Aside from supplying potato seedlings to potato farmers, the enterprise recently started offering training to farmers to help them improve on their production. The company is also looking at setting up a hub that can be used as a storage facility for fertilizers mainly for potato farming.
Under their membership program in NPCK, Jancota Limited has reached a wide range of potato farmers whom they can sell their products to and link up with.
“NPCK has set up a platform for potato farmers where they offer them training and through this platform; We are able to link up and sell our products to the farmers,” he says.
He adds that aside from such platforms, farmers can also purchase their products and interact with them through their social media pages: Twitter, Instagram and their website.
“The major challenge we experience is climate change. This interferes with the harvesting pattern. Another challenge is the availability of land, specifically land suitable for potato farming. Lack of specialised labour is also a big challenge. Most of the youth shy away from agriculture so there is not enough manpower in agribusiness. Finally there is the common challenge of lack of capital,” he concludes.
On the bright side, the company has had achievements such as creating employment opportunities in their farms in Nyandarua, Kipkelion and Kiambu county.
“Creating employment opportunities mainly for the youth is also an important aspect for us here at Jancota Limited,” Collins reports.
Since Jancota Limited joined the AgriBiz program that is funded by the EU and Danida, it has received technical support and training on bookkeeping and setting up good internal systems. It has also been able to create a viable ten-year long business plan. Under this program, Collins hopes to continue receiving the technical support and training from KCIC as well as funding for scaling up the business.