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Presentation 13: Handling catch-22 situation between crop production and its agro-processing: Lessons from Western Kenya

Research for development organizations such as the International Potato Centre has been tasked to scale up adoption of proven technologies including crop varieties as well as develop sustainable value chains. While this approach has the potential to increase production, home utilization and commercialization, questions on which segment of the value chain need to precede start becoming critical. Above all, value chain actors are diverse and the rate at which they adopt technologies is highly varied.  This not only calls for flexibility in the roles of R4D organizations but also elasticity to lead. This abstract highlights lessons learnt in establishing a puree based bakery products. 


During 2015, an initiative to process orange fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP) puree was stated in Homa bay County, Western Kenya through competitive selection of the processor.  In the recent past, key lessons have been leant.


While a buying contract provides commitment and assurance, a lot more is needed to execute a contract: Despite having a buying contract, the puree supplier could not meet the demand for puree due to inadequate supply of roots.  This has been occasioned by high tonnages required to maintain continuous processing.


Availability of vines can derail production of roots: Since OFSP is Vagetatively propagated, careful planning is required to ensure timely availability of planting material that are required for massive OFSP production.


Challenge in changing cultural practice:  At the point where vines were available from vine multipliers, root producers were not willing to pay for the vines.  Mainly this challenge was because farmers mainly freely share vines among themselves especially for the local varieties.  In addition, root producers may not be willingness of to harvest roots at 4months in order to re-use their vines in other field. Worse still, roots maybe ready in a relatively dry month, which planting may not be appropriate.


Funding of vines for root production: Emanating trends show that due to poor agronomic practices in root production, farmers may not be able to make profits sufficient to repay seed loan. 

  • Also, it has been noted that vines could be trading at very high prices that could slow adoption.


Low returns to investment by private sector at the onset of business: The private sector needs to remain interested in processing for the value chain to remain profitable. Often, private sector as a profit driven entity may lose patience. It is the role of R4D organization to ensure value chain actors remain interested and play their complementary roles.

Uncertainties in research findings to support agro-processing: Often research comes with uncertainties yet the private sector needs concrete assurance as to when the findings can be applied.   Again, private sector may lose patience, thus breaking the value chain.


Fragile balance as various actors expands and become more effective in their roles: It is expected that some actors may be faster in growth than others, which may introduce a point of weakness in the value chain. This uncertainty needs to be managed to ensure all actors get value for their investment.


Overall the commencement of commercial marketing of puree based bakery product offers an opportunity for learning and improvement of the OFSP value chain not only in Western Kenya but in other countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Critical take home message is that each of the partners needs to remain in the chain and play their role satisfactorily.


Muoki, P. 2016. Handling catch-22 situation between crop production and its agro-processing: Lessons from Western Kenya. Presentation made at the 2016 Marketing, Processing and Utilization Cop Meeting in Tanzania.