9 May 2012
On Tuesday March 20th 2012 Green Farming and FPEAK jointly organised the seminar “Challenges in technological development of the Kenyan Vegetable Sector”. The seminar was organized as part of the fourth trade mission of Green Farming to Kenya and was organized at the FPEAK Practical Training Centre in Thika.
The seminar was focused specifically on the Kenyan vegetable sector and was setup to facilitate a discussion between the Dutch horticultural suppliers and Kenyan vegetable growers. The discussion was centred around three main themes, i.e. water management, post harvest and logistics, and research and knowledge transfer. The discussion topics per theme were presented with introductory presentations of Green farming members
Water management, introduced by Mr. Bert Louwerse (Bosman BV), focused on the topic of what irrigation system would be most suitable for vegetable production: drip or pivot irrigation. Some of the points that came up during the discussion were:
- Drip irrigation is more efficient than pivot irrigation. However, drip irrigation requires more management, more manpower and more maintenance as compared to the pivot irrigation system. The infrastructure for pivot irrigation is much simpler and takes less time.
- Decision between pivot irrigation and drip irrigation should be crop specific. Crops that can easily wilt should not be irrigated with drip irrigation only. During hot months, the cooling effect of overhead pivot irrigation is of high importance.
- The pivot irrigation system has an acceptable return on investment, which is mostly a reason to choose for the pivot irrigation system instead of drip irrigation. Drip irrigation has a longer return on investment. However, drip irrigation will reduce on water and fertilizer use and although having higher initial investments costs, on the long run will be more cost effective.
- Farmers should be better informed about the advantages of drip irrigation over pivot irrigation. This information is lacking at the moment.
Post harvest and logistics, introduced by Mr. Reinier van Elderen (Frigo Breda BV), focused on the topic if it would be possible to ship (certain) vegetable products by sea freight instead of by air freight. Some of the points that came up during the discussion were:
- Problems with sea freight include long transit times at the harbour, however consolidation centres and containers are refrigerated and on the ships everything is constantly climate controlled. With airfreight temperature control is not always done constantly.
- Butternut squash and beans are products that could be shipped by sea freight. Both products have sufficient export volume and EU market demand. Information is needed on transit times and costs in order to make proper calculations on possibilities for shipment by sea freight. If the quality remains the same, customers would accept longer transit times. Growing programs and order times should be adjusted to this.
- Proper information is lacking, which decisions can be made regarding what kind of transport and how to transport certain products.
Research and knowledge transfer, introduced by Mr. Anne Elings (Wageningen UR), focused on the level of cooperation in order to increase overall horticultural knowledge in Kenya. Some of the points that came up during the discussion were:
- Horticultural farming requires relatively high levels of skills and knowledge and is too complex to be dealt with individually. In the Netherlands the success of horticulture is related to cooperation between education, research, extension and private sector. Not only public - private knowledge sharing but for a large part also sharing of knowledge and experiences among growers. Tools for developing knowledge sharing in Kenya can be farmer study groups, (anonymous) benchmarking and e.g. PTC Thika functioning as an information platform.
- At the moment it is very difficult to go to another farm to see how they deal with certain problems, due to commercial reasons and a competitive sector. The PTC Thika could serve as a neutral meeting place, to meet fellow growers and have an open discussion on certain problems.
After a fruitful discussion, the participants and the Dutch Green Farming delegation were given the opportunity to meet each other in person, of which good use was made to discuss further in more detail and exchange information and contact details.
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