By Warom Felix
West Nile-The farmers in the region now have a reason to smile because a successful bio-technology has been developed to produce new variety of sweet potatoes.
In the region, every household grows sweet potatoes both as subsistence farming or commercial purpose. Many of them feed on it either for breakfast or for meals. The school children highly feed on sweet potatoes as they are provided with by the parents to carry to school to eat during breakfast.
Now the West Nile farmers have been stuck in dilemma of how they could have improved variety apart from the traditional ones that are prone to the weevils and are not drought resistant. National Crops Resources Research Institute (Nacrri) has released the varieties which they said would boost production and create more market opportunities for the farmers.
The various products from sweet potatoes at Abi Zardi. All Photos by Warom Felix
Speaking during a field visit at Abi-Zonal Agricultural Research Institute in Arua, Dr Bernard Yada, Sweet Potatoe Breeder, said: “We need to teach the extension workers, farmers on sweet potatoe production methods on varieties we developed including identification of diseases and how to produce value added products from sweet potatoes.
This will make the farmers have clean planting materials that would boost production.
Some of the new varieties of sweet potatoes includes Naspot 8, Naspot 11, Naspot 12-O and Naspot 13-O. The new variety, which is still to be named, is purple in color, which has advantage of being drought and disease resistance and produces high yield.
Farmers take notes about the new varieties of sweet potatoes
This, Dr Yada said would help boost the food security, marketing and production for both the farmers and the country. Uganda is the third world leading producer of Sweet potatoes after China and Nigeria.
“The farmers here had been faced with dilemma of diseases because sweet potatoes could not easily be sprayed because of the feeding behavior where they get stuck in the soil. And this is why we came out with these varieties so that we can maintain the high production,” he said.
A farmer who is carrying out value addition to sweet potatoes, Stella Apio, said: “I have been able to produce cookies, juice, chips, flour, cakes and animal feeds from sweet potatoes. Farmers need to be creative in order to benefit from the crop. And with these new varieties, this will boost production and eventually improve on income in families who will be able to reduce poverty.”
Stella Apio explains to farmers the products they can get from sweet potatoes.
The farmers and field extension workers from across the region who turned up for the field day acknowledged that they would need to translate the information into good practices of potatoe growing in the region.
The Director for Abi-Zardi, Dr Sadik Kassim, said they would make follow ups and continue to educate the farmers in order to improve on varieties that could be consumed on the world market. “We do support farmers with research works especially those who are active who adapt to new technologies. So we shall need to focus on giving the farmers materials in order to improve on the technologies that we are developing,” he said.
Orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) is rich in vitamin A and is being disseminated with support from USAID under Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative. OFSP has now been adopted by over 55,000 Ugandan farming households, with up to 237,000 households expected to be planting and eating it by 2018. In November 2013, the Government of Uganda released two more varieties of this potato, bringing the total number to six.