DEVELOPMENT THROUGH SWEET POTATOES

For Kenyan small farmers, the harvest yields little more than they need for themselves. How the orange sweet potato can change the life of an entire region.

 

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The market has expanded for women in County Kakamega, Kenya, with the orange and very nutritious sweet potato. All Photos: (c) Jörg Böthling/ GIZ

Project sponsor

Green Innovation Centers Kenya

Goals

Increase income by 30 percent in 50,000 in small farms.

Create 900 new jobs.

Increase agricultural productivity by 30 percent.

Education and training for 50,000 small farmers.

Planned budget

EUR 14 million

Muchele used to grow white fibrous sweet potatoes, just like her mother and grandmother before her. She used to get the seedlings for free from her neighbors, and with them, unfortunately, came all of the associated plant diseases and pests. She would also plant corn and sugar cane on her 0.8 hectares of land in western Kenya, together with her husband Adriano. The children also helped as soon as they came home from school. The twelve-member family lived a frugal life, living off what they reaped. Their crop yields were hardly high enough to pay for other food, let alone for tuition, clothes and medicine.

 

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Small farmer Florence Mayeku also grows orange sweet potatoes.

The improvement came in 2010, when Muchele got to know CREADIS at a village meeting. CREADIS is a local relief organization, which, among other activities, is engaged in introducing the rural population to new varieties of vegetables and grain and helping them grow, process and market their products. Josephine is a cheerful woman with a can-do attitude who quickly understood what she was being taught: orange sweet potatoes, which are not widely grown in Kenya, ripen much faster and have higher crop yields, their market price is higher, and farmers can even sell their leaves and shoots. Moreover, compared to the white variety of sweet potato which is locally common, orange sweet potatoes carry a big payload of nutrients. The orange color is no accident: it is due to the potato's high Vitamin A content. Muchele recalls: "At first my husband and the children were skeptical. But when they first tasted how delicious the new sweet potato tasted, they were very enthusiastic." 

 

Investing in the future

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The Vitamin A content of orange sweet potatoes is significantly higher.

Muchele decided to make the attempt. She bought the seedlings from CREADIS for a cheap price. The very first harvest produced not ten, but twenty whole sacks, and each sack sold for twice as much as the white sweet potatoes went for. This was in addition to the sale of the seedlings. In the following year, she increased the land under cultivation and was able to buy a dairy cow with the proceeds: for a small farmer like her, a cow represents an investment and at the same time, an enrichment of her diet. The life of Muchele’s family has improved since then: instead of grass, corrugated iron covers the mud hut and does not have to be constantly replaced; the tuition of their two grandchildren and their five children who are still going to school have been paid in advance for the whole year. If a family member becomes ill, Muchele can afford to buy medicine. Her next project: a stone house! Josephine Muchele has many ideas and plans for other things which she can pay for using the proceeds from her sweet potato sales. And she has a dream: "I also want to buy some land for my children, so that they can grow the new sweet potato just like me!"

 

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A Project by

GIZ

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)

The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) is a globally active provider of international cooperation for sustainable development. It has more than 50 years of experience in a wide range of fields.  

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