Potatoes are central to the life, health, and wellbeing of people and farmers in East Africa. They are also an important food and cash crop in the region.

The Kenyan potato industry is valued at $500 million; Tanzania is the sixth largest potato producer in Africa, involving over half a million farmers, and in Uganda, potato production continues to increase with production growing by 172,000 Metric Tonnes from 2006 to 2018. However, because of climate change, the value chain is at risk.

The CRAFT climate change risk assessments in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda reveal significant climate risks for potato production. Projections indicate temperature increases of 2.5°C and 2.6°C in Tanzania and 2.8°C and 2.5°C Kenya for the March-April-May and October-November-December seasons respectively, by 2050. During the same period, Uganda faces a potential decrease of over 90% in potato yield during the March-April-May season. With a growing population and greater uncertainty about the impact of climate change for farmers and their crops, action is needed now.

The private sector has a vital and unique role to play in addressing these challenges.

The CRAFT project, which is implemented by an international consortium led by SNV, is collaborating with 56 agribusinesses across seven value chains, including potato, to enhance resilience for farmers and businesses. To achieve this objective, CRAFT has successfully trained over 260,000 farmers through 3,926 farmer field schools. Additionally, 4,544 extension workers and lead farmers have received specialized training to enhance their knowledge and skills. As a result, more than 131,000 smallholder farmers have adopted two or more climate-smart agricultural practices and realised an increase in incomes.

Through the Climate Innovation and Investment Facility (CIIF), CRAFT has addressed low funding levels, improved the bankability of agribusinesses and de-risked investment in climate smart agriculture. The project has provided matching grants to 10 agribusinesses in the potato value chain, attracting private sector investment of over three million euros.

East Africa Fruits (EAF) a CRAFT Tanzania partner, sought to assist farmers to realise production abundance, enhancing the capacity of 3,500 smallholder farmers to improve potato output by 15% by 2022. The matching grant has allowed the company to grow toward its goal of becoming Africa’s largest food distributor.

“In the last few years, our business has grown, and we have been able to double our revenue,” said Elia Timotheo, EAF CEO. By de-risking private sector investment, agribusinesses can attract more financial resources, lead to sustainable agribusinesses and contribute to food security.

CRAFT also facilitated the adoption of climate-smart agriculture technologies and practices among agribusinesses SMEs, farmer cooperatives, and smallholder farmers. This included promoting drought-tolerant varieties. CRAFT connected Starlight, a Kenyan female-led cooperative with Fresh Crop, a potato seed company, and CRAFT partner.

“Farmers struggled to access certified seed and relied on seeds bought in the open markets which were often affected by pests and diseases, resulting in a negative impact on the quality and quantity of their harvest,” said Kamiti, a farmer and cooperative member. The collaboration between the two agribusinesses created subsidised and readily available certified seeds, with 70% of the cooperative's 2,500 farmers accessing the seeds. This partnership has led to increased production, reduced pests, and disease incidences (hence less use of agrochemicals), and joint marketing efforts.

CRAFT has built agribusiness capacity to support farmers adopting climate smart agriculture technologies and practices which ensure the production of quality potatoes. Kisoro Potato Growers' Cooperative Union in Uganda constructed a diffuse light store, with support from CRAFT, to maintain the quality of seeds multiplied by farmers. The partnership between Kachwekano Zonal Agriculture Research and Development Institute (KaZARDI) and the cooperative enhanced access to foundation seed potato. Seed potato varieties such as Rwangume and Taurus are distributed to trained seed potato multipliers within the community. The cooperative aggregates the seed at the centrally located diffuse light store for easy access to the farmers. “We trained our seed producers, but we continued to have poor seeds due to unconducive storage,” Fidel Kamari, the chairperson of the cooperative notes. “The diffuse store helps us maintain the quality of seeds produced by farmers,” Fidel adds.  The cooperative is also finalising an Ambient store - a facility for storing ware potatoes which will ease the challenges involved in post-harvest handling of potatoes during marketing. “It will be a one-stop centre for potato buyers, increasing the cooperative and farmers’ bargaining power,” said Kamari.

The above are some of examples of the interventions the CRAFT project has implemented across East Africa. Through a private sector-led approach, agribusinesses SMEs and cooperatives are contributing to the resilience of smallholder farmers, the sustainability of agribusinesses, and ensuring a more secure future for potato production – good for people, good for the planet.  


By Maxine Kampire

CRAFT Multi-Country Marketing and Communications Officer