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Sweet potatoes for prosperity

Photo by Esther Mbabazi Photo by Esther Mbabazi

Uganda is now the leading producer of sweet potatoes in Africa (CIP/CGIAR). Teso sub-region, in the east of the country, has soil and weather particularly well suited to growing this crop.

The orange-fleshed sweet potato is rich in vitamin A, as well as other essential vitamins, and is a vital tool 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.

The problem

Sweet potato farmers in Teso tend to all plant and harvest at the same time, which results in farmers selling their crops in over-saturated markets, where supply is high and prices are low.

A lack of access to affordable processing and storage facilities and lack of knowledge in post-harvest handling and marketing means that there are limited opportunities for smallholders to extend their crops’ shelf life, stagger harvests or add value to their produce. These factors combine to stop subsistence farmers from making the step-change to commercial agriculture, trapping them in a cycle of poverty and food insecurity.

What we have done

The project aimed to improve farmers’ post-harvest handling skills and access to processing and storage facilities, so that their crops can be sold and consumed throughout the year.

With support from a local partner organisation Farm Africa delivered in-depth training in the effective production, harvesting and handling of orange-fleshed sweet potatoes via training sessions held on demonstration plots.  

Farm Africa has also built a new processing centre to improve the storage and processing of the sweet potatoes. In this new building, there is a processing room with washing and peeling facilities, a chipping machine and a solar dryer where sweet potato chips can be dried very quickly. We have also built a storage room where chipped and bagged potatoes can be hygienically stored to be sold in bulk at a time when prices are favourable to the farmers. Having a central processing centre also provides an opportunity for farmers to come together and share their new experiences, skills and knowledge with each other.

A production manager for the centre has been employed to work with the farmers to co-ordinate planting, harvesting and processing over a longer period so the centre can service as many farmers as possible as well as even out supply and demand issues over the course of the year.

Training on business planning, financial management, marketing and contract negotiation has helped the farmers, working as a collective, to negotiate supply agreements with commercial buyers such as millers who will pay good prices. 

Who we worked for

Working in partnership with Soroti Sweet Potato Producers Association (SOSPPA) and farmers previously trained by Harvest Plus, Farm Africa directly supported 1,000 farmers to increase their yields and reduce their post-harvest losses. And through the SOSPPA production centre and improved market linkages up to 1,000 more farmers benefited from our work.

Our project ensured that there is a consistent supply of this vital crop to help fight the effects of Vitamin A deficiency among the women and children of Uganda.

Who we worked with

This project is funded by Ajahma Charitable Trust.

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