Mechanization level in potato production in Kenya is quite low as observed in the two counties of Nyandarua and Bungoma. Of the farmers interviewed during farmer field days in Nyandarua 59% use hoes and forks for ploughing, while 95% of the respondents in Bungoma use animal-driven ploughs for land preparation in order to save labor costs. The few farmers who use tractor-driven equipment – mainly during ploughing – do not own the equipment but hire it from other farmers. Most farmers apply fertilizer, form ridges, weed/hill, and harvest by hand. The level of hiring labor for these activities is also low, with only 15% of the respondents having the capability to hire labor. Different machinery was demonstrated on the demonstration plots. These included bed former, ridger, planter, equipment for mechanized fertilizer application, bed maintainer, and harvester. The results show that time and costs of the operations decreased with the application of machinery. Average time taken to do manual operations in potato production in Kenya is more than 1,000 hr/ha as compared to 249 hr/ha used for mechanized operations.

Potato Initiative AfricaDamage during harvesting has been contributing tremendously to the low yields achieved by farmers. During the demonstration, yield loss at harvest was at 30% of the total yields for the manual harvesting as compared with only 2.5% for the mechanized operation. Before witnessing the trials, only 34% of the interviewed farmers in Kenya were willing to invest in mechanized operations, believing that this would save costs and reduce labor needs. After attending the harvesting field day and learning about the cost for a tractor and the corresponding implements (approximately KES 11,000,000), only 18 % of the farmers still thought they can invest in their own equipment. However, 88% of the respondents prefer to hire service for mechanized operations on their farms. Farmers in Nyandarua showed highest willingness to pay for ploughing services, followed by harvesting and planting. When asked to rate the mechanization options, harvesting came third.

They acknowledged the advantages of mechanized potato lifting, such as less damage, fewer tubers remaining in the ground, and saving time. The ridgers significantly reduced the time to prepare seedbeds. Farmers who witnessed the demonstration indicated their willingness to use (rent) these ridgers. The willingness to pay for mechanized ridging averaged USD 53.29 per hectare per season among farmers in Kenya. The benefits of mechanized ridging were ranked fourth in the list of six mechanized operations on the farm. Furthermore, equipment for mechanized fertilizer application was provided as demonstration to farmers in Kenya. After attending the field days at the farm AIC Njabini in Kenya, 95.7 % of the farmers interviewed would be willing to invest in the new potato-specific fertilizer used during the trial. Prior to the demonstration of harvesting, most farmers did not know that harvesting can be mechanized and so they were excited about the opportunity to reduce this activity in time, labor, and more importantly harvest losses resulting from the use of a winnower.

MechanizationTo this extent, they are willing to spend about USD 69.15 per hectare per season on mechanization for harvesting services. This is mainly due to the reduction of damages of tubers and labor hours. However, it needs to be mentioned that mechanized harvesting only makes sense if the planting before has been done mechanized as well. Otherwise the machine for harvesting can easily destroy the tubers. The experience shows that there is a good potential for implementing the mechanization options for improving smallholder productivity in potato farming. Farmers who witnessed mechanized operations in Kenya indicated their willingness to rent machinery for their field operations. They acknowledged that mechanized operations save a lot of time, labor cost, produce more accurate results, and lead to higher yields with fewer post-harvest losses.

Potato Initiative AfricaThere is therefore an opportunity for private service providers to offer such services to farmers as the willingness to pay is sufficient to cover such services. With increasing mechanization there is also an emerging opportunity to attract the youth into engaging more in potato production. At the moment the number of youths is low in potato production. In the end, the success of this implementation depends on the cost of machinery, the cost of rental/hiring services offered by mechanization service providers, and the ability of service providers to reach farmers in distant locations with bad road infrastructure.

Smallholders who are unable to individually purchase and own these machines and equipment dominate potato farming in Kenya. As such, mechanization service providers will play a critical role in the implementation and up scaling of the mechanization options tested. The few large-scale farmers with out-grower schemes can undertake direct acquisition of the machines/equipment for various farm operations. The implementation of the full range of mechanization options for potato farming, i.e. from plowing to harvesting, can be done at different levels of mechanization. These levels reflect the extent of machine involvement, the capacity of the machines, and the size of the plot (hectares of land) to be worked on.


Seeing is believing! Indeed, the difference is so clear. But how much can I pay for this? The trials and farmers’ willingness to adopt and pay for modernized potato production in Kenya.

The trials in Kenya generated an excitement among farmers about the modern methods for potato production, which were demonstrated to them. Before the trial, only 56.4% of farmers interviewed indicated that they were willing to invest in certified potato seeds. However, after observing the performance of the certified potato seeds through the trials, 96.6% were now willing to invest in certified potato seeds. Most farmers, however, preferred to purchase certified potato seeds of the local Shangi variety. Farmers were willing to utilize the mechanization services (88.90%) demonstrated to them.

Although 96% of farmers were willing to use certified potato seeds, they preferred the local Shangi variety to the introduced varieties. The average WTP for 50kg of the introduced varieties was USD 13.54, lower than the USD 15.25 they are willing to pay for the local variety. The main reason is farmers’ skepticism about the market for the new varieties.

If farmers knew of the available market, they would cultivate these varieties. The low figures stated here could be because most farmers do not purchase potato seeds, since they use potato seeds from the previous crop season. However, the non-negative WTP is a positive sign or opportunity for adoption. Raising farmers’ awareness on the available and growing potato processing industry could enhance their WTP for the new varieties. Farmers were so enthusiastic about the idea of hiring the mechanization services after witnessing the mechanized demonstrations on plowing, planting, ridging/hilling, crop protection, fertilizer application, and harvesting. For many of the farmers, it was the first time they saw mechanized harvesting of potatoes. They ranked the benefits of mechanized ploughing, ridge formation, and harvesting as the first, second and third, respectively.

Besides ploughing, they are willing to pay more for harvesting (USD 69.15) and planting (USD 54.97) than for ridge formation (USD 53.29). The visible benefits of harvesting in reducing damages of tubers and labor hours are the reasons for being willing to pay more for harvesting than ridge formation. In all, the trials have created the awareness among farmers about modernized options for potato production. There is, therefore, an opportunity for increasing productivity of smallholders through the provision of the new products and services such as those used for the demonstrations.