Orange Fleshed Sweet Potatoes Tripling Farmers’ Incomes
The Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP) provides a great opportunity for smallholder farmers in Kenya. They provide higher income potential than traditional crops, adapt well to variable climates, and can be grown year-round. Consumer demand of OFSP is growing thanks to the nutritional benefits, long shelf-life and easy preparation. Despite the enormous potential, many farmers have been unable to take advantage of the great benefits of OFSP crops because they lack access to high-quality planting- material, or they lack the knowledge in crop production and management practices need to grow OFSP successfully.
To address these challenges, USAID/Kenya and Kenya Horticulture Competitiveness Program (KHCP) partner, Sunripe, helped 18 farmers create the Bondeni Self Help Group last year. Sunripe introduced the group to various agricultural innovations such as land and nursery preparation techniques, nursery propagation, drip irrigation, use of hybrid seedlings, soil sampling and other commercial horticulture technologies. As well, access to the new Tainung variety of OFSP has enabled the Bondeni Group to triple its income.
“The Tainung variety is three times more productive than the traditional variety we were used to,” says Raphael Mutisya, the leader of Bondeni Self Help Group. With the Tainung variety, the group is harvesting more than 2,000 kilograms, from 0.75 acres, three times more than traditional varieties, which would typically produce around 667 kilograms per acre. Not only does the Tainung variety yield more, but it tends to be more drought-tolerant and quicker to mature. Farmers can now plant four times per year, twice what the old varieties would allow.
With the skills gained through Sunripe’s technical assistance, the Bondeni group has diversified into nursery seed multiplication to meet the growing demand for the Tainung seedlings. Because the crop has become so popular in the region, the first time the group sold OFSP vines for profit they were able to earn an additional Kshs. 27, 781 ($348) from just 0.75 of an acre in one month’s time. As great a success as this was for the Bondeni group, once they refine their agricultural practices they expect to earn as much as 54,000 Ksh ($675) a month from the sale of OFSP vines...all from 0.75 of an acre of land.
Sunripe is currently working with seven other farmer groups in the region with a total membership of 143 farmers. These farmers have been engaged with scheduled planting to meet Sunripe’s export target of 20,000 tons of OFSP per week to the Middle East. The combination of strong market demand and high yields for the new variety is pushing the prices for both vines and sweet potato to a record high, which ultimately is improving smallholders’ income and food security.