- The group use surface irrigation with water from Tana Irrigation Scheme canals directed to the farms by furrows
- He added that the variety takes 75 days to mature and the cost is manageable because they only use organic manures
A group of farmers in Makere village, Galole in Tana River are cultivating highly nutritious orange-fleshed sweet potatoes to fight malnutrition.
The intervention comes amidst a severe drought with more than 92,000 people on the brink of starvation.
According to the International Potato Center (CIP), one small boiled orange-fleshed sweet potato can provide daily vitamin A requirement for a young child, reducing the risk of infection, stunted growth or blindness.
Mwanaesha Haluwa, a member of a 20-member Uhuru na Kazi farmers group said she has earned more money from her two-acre farm through the cultivation of sweet potatoes compared to other crops.
The group use surface irrigation with water from Tana Irrigation Scheme canals directed to the farms by furrows.
The World Food Programme supplied 2,000 seedlings from Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation to the group.
“The cultivation of sweat potatoes is very good, WFP brought us seedlings which we placed in the nursery. Most members have two to three acres of land,’’ Haluwa said.
"Proceeds from our first harvest helped us and our families. We have been able to pay school fees, buy food and livestock. We are not suffering from hunger even though there is a famine."
Haluwa encouraged other small-scale farmers to embrace sweet potato farming to end overreliance on relief food.
The group chairman Salim Mgawa said he was trained in sweet potato farming by the WFP.
“If you cultivate one acre, you can harvest between 20 to 25 bags. We sell a kilogramme at Sh50. I have cultivated one acre and got a profit of Sh45,000,’’ Mgawa said.
He added that the variety takes 75 days to mature and the cost is manageable because they only use organic manures.
The farmers appeal to the county to improve farm access roads and help them market their produce outside the county.
Alex Kubende an agricultural officer notes that the sweet potatoes are biofortified and they have beta carotene, a rich source of Vitamin A.
“Sweet potatoes are one of the indigenous foods that can grow well without in Tana River. This farm is diseases free and does not use any pesticide or fertiliser, so a low-level farmer can cultivate it,’’ Kubende said.
“This is a project that we can replicate to fight hunger and malnutrition by enabling families to be food sufficient. Only Makere and Bura were successful out of the four areas that we piloted."
The National Drought Management Authority early warning for September has classified Tana River as an alarm-worsening phase.
(Edited by Tabnacha O)