Mama Johna's Power-Sized Potato Harvest

Originally published on March 3, 2015.

Martha Johna shows off the potato crop at her family farm.
Just a few months after rolling out into the field, Lachlan Ltd.'s Viazi Power innovation has smallholder farmers in Bomet and Meru excited about improved productivity and higher returns from potato farming. And with good reason!

For Martha Johna, also known as Mama Joseph, her family farm in the green and hilly countryside of Timau in Meru County has never been more productive. In September 2014, her son Joseph - who manages the farm - harvested the largest, healthiest potatoes she says she has ever seen; the 0.063 acre potato farm yielded a bumper harvest of 11 bags of Irish potatoes - more than twice the typical harvest!

Rolled out in mid-2014, Viazi Power (Viazi is Swahili for Potato) is a fusion-farming technology implemented with funding and customized technical assistance from the USAID-funded Kenya Feed the Future Innovation Engine. Implemented by Land O’Lakes International Development, the Innovation Engine is a five-year program working to accelerate poverty reduction and improve food security in Kenya. Similar to a venture capital fund, the Innovation Engine supports experimentation and rewards proven success by seeking projects that represent cutting-edge approaches that will benefit a significant number of households, and then awarding seed funding to help turn their ideas into scalable innovations.

Viazi Power works by taking the best of synthetic chemical and fertilizer products, and combining their application with the best "bio-control" products, in a holistic fusion of seed treatment and foliar application. Currently being piloted in Meru and Bomet counties in Kenya, the technology not only helps farmers increase yield and crop quality at a sustainable cost, but also preserves soil fertility, and helps generate economic yields in adverse environmental conditions and poor soils. By keeping in mind allowable residue levels for food safety, and ensuring training and monitoring to help farmers adhere to best practices in pesticide management, the innovation aims to help small-scale farmers ensure safe produce while achieving sustainable yields. This is particularly beneficial where the use of conventional fertilizers is limited due to poor cash flow and other constraints.

With the evident possibilities that Viazi Power presents for farmers' livelihoods, uptake of the innovation is on the rise. Agrodealers are pleased with the steady rise in demand for the product, which farmers say is much cheaper than conventional fertilizer approaches and delivers high yields that speak for themselves. 

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