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New Farm Africa project to boost orange-fleshed sweet potato production in Uganda

28 March 2017

Farm Africa has received a grant from the Ajahma Charitable Trust to develop the production, storage and marketing of orange-fleshed sweet potatoes in the Teso sub-region of eastern Uganda.

The orange-fleshed sweet potato is rich in vitamin A, as well as other essential vitamins, and is vital in the fight against vitamin A deficiency; a major health problem in Uganda. The deficiency affects 36% of women under 45 and 38% of children in Uganda, making it the leading cause of preventable blindness in children, as well as increasing the risk of disease and death from severe infections.

“This project will have far-reaching benefits for the people of Uganda,” said Rachel Beckett, Uganda Country Representative at Farm Africa. “Not only will it help farmers living in poverty to grow their incomes, but by ensuring there is a consistent supply of orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, it will help fight against malnutrition in local women and children.”

The soil and weather in Teso are well suited to growing sweet potatoes, and Uganda is now the leading producer of sweet potatoes in Africa (CIP/CGIAR). Despite the fact that sweet potato is grown by over 44% of Ugandan farmers, many farmers fail to eke out of a living from its production.

The majority of orange-fleshed sweet potatoes all planted and harvested at the same time, which results in farmers selling their crops in over-saturated markets for low prices where supply is high and prices are low.

A lack of affordable processing and storage facilities, as well as limited knowledge about post-harvest handling, mean there are very few opportunities for smallholders to extend the shelf life of their highly perishable harvest.  

This project will provide farmers with the relevant skills, resources and knowledge to practice staggered planting to extend their harvest seasons, and reduce losses through improved processing and storage facilities.

Four new solar driers are being supplied to the local production centre where the sweet potatoes are taken to be dried. Once dried and cut into chips, the produce can be stored for three months and sold at a time when prices are more favourable to the farmer.

A production manager for the centre will also be employed to work with the farmers to co-ordinate planting and harvesting over a longer period so the centre can service as many farmers as possible.

Training on business planning, financial management, marketing and contract negotiation by our local partner SOSPPA will help its member farmers, working as a collective, to negotiate supply agreements with commercial buyers such as millers who will pay good prices for a consistent supply of bulk-processed orange-fleshed sweet potato chips.

Rachel Beckett, Farm Africa’s Country Representative in Uganda, says, “Demonstrating that farmers can continue to earn a good income by processing, collectively storing and marketing orange-fleshed sweet potatoes will encourage other farmers to grow more of this vital crop well into the future, beyond the lifetime of the project.”