Henry Semakula, a sweet potato expert, says the nursery for vines needs to be properly maintained if you are to get maximum returns
The National Crops Resources Research Institute Namulonge (NaCRRI) has distributed over 22m sweet potatoes vines to farmers in Wakiso, Mukono and Kamuli district in the last three years.
NaCRRI, a National Agricultural Research Organisation institute specialises in crop research.
Dr. Gorrettie Ssemakula, a scientist at NaCRRI, told a stakeholders meeting Tracking Access of Improved and Popular Varieties of Root Crops including Sweet Potatoes at Tulip Hotel in Kampala on Thursday that they have been able to distribute 22 million vines in the three districts using school-going children. She said it is the approach they are to promote among researchers.
“We started it as a pilot project, but now it has proven to us that using school children is a better adoption method for new crop varieties,” she said.
The distributed varieties include the latest NARO varieties; NAROSPOT1, NAROSPOT2 Naspot 12, Naspot 13 and Naspot 8.
The first two is tolerant to diseases while the rest are orange fresh incorporated with Vitamin A. Vitamin A is important in the fight against anaemia rampant in pregnant women.
James Ogol, a prison officer and farmer at Kitalya Prison in Wakiso district, said he started sweet potatoes growing after his son had come home with 80 vines from Kitaya Primary School.
They vine had been given to him by a pupil at Kitalya Primary School. He said he had expanded his potatoes garden from one acre to three acres to increase his income.
Dr. Kiddo Mtunda, a Tanzanian scientist, said they had been able to distribute about 50m vines in Tanzania in the same period. Dr Godfrey Asea, the director at NaCRRI and guest of honour said NARO was now moving from demand driven research to market led research.
“We shall not only be focusing on food security but also on research for industrialisation,” he said. The potato has recently gained prominence as a food security crop as it can be harvested in piecemeal and is less affected by drought.
The sweet potato is also used to make multiple products that include biscuits, potato flour, potato juice, bread, crisps, etc. Farmers are also making millions from the sale of vine.
Ogol said potatoes sell at sh200,000 per sack during off season and at between sh50,000-60,000 depending on the season.
The Tracking Access of Improved and Popular Varieties of Root Crops, including sweet potatoes has been running in Uganda and Tanzania and is sponsored the the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation