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Sweet Potatoes

Contributors;

Michael S. Akhwale – Research Scientist, Root and Tuber Crops Programme, KALRO-Kakamega – 0724976679, makhwale@yahoo.com

Patrick K. Yegon; Research Scientist – Root and Tuber Crops Programme, KALRO-Njoro - 0721397130, patyegon@yahoo.com

COMMON NAME: SWEETPOTATO

SCIENTIFIC NAME: (Ipomoea batatas (L.)

Introduction

Sweetpotato can be grown with little or no fertilizer and is widely grown by smallholder farmers nearly in all parts of the country. It is environmental friendly (reduces erosion and has low chemical use). It has a short maturity period of 3 to 7 months and because of its short duration, it is very strategic for addressing food insecurity. Sweetpotato has many uses, ranging from consumption of fresh roots or leaves to processing into animal feed, starch, flour, candy and alcohol. Vines and roots can be used as livestock feed. Sweetpotato roots are sold locally and there is potential for export market. Sweetpotato can be grown twice a year in medium and high potential areas.

Description

Sweetpotato root is long and tapered, with a smooth skin whose colour ranges between cream, yellow, orange, red, brown, purple and beige. The flesh may be cream, white (highest in starch) to orange (high in carotene) to purple. Sweetpotato plant has trailing long stems or vines bearing funnel-shaped pink or rose violet flowers.

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The sweet potato vines are useful and nutritious as fodder crop.

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Orange fleshed sweet potato tuber

Orange fleshed sweet potato tuber

  • Sweet potato is a food security crop that can be grown nearly in all parts of the country.
  • It is an inexpensive crop because it does not need much labour or fertilizer and that can be grown by the rural poor
  • The orange-fleshed variety is  a good source of vitamin A for nursing mothers and children

Other Opportunities in the Sweet Potatoes Enterprise

  • Seed bulking  – contract farmers to produce vines/cuttings
  • Livestock feed – growing of sweet potatoes as fodder also manufacturing livestock feeds
  • Industrial use – Starch is produced from sweet potatoes for industrial use (garment factories)
  • Production of composite flours

Key Policy Issues

Key areas of policy concerns are:-

  • Promote the production and utilization of food security crops
  • Increasing agricultural productivity and incomes especially for smallholder farmers
  • Encouraging diversification into non- traditional agricultural commodities and value addition to reduce vulnerability
  • Enhancing the food security and reduction in the no. of those suffering from hunger and hence the achievement of the MDGs
  • Encouraging private-sector led development of the sector
  • Ensuring environmental sustainability

Stakeholders

  • MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE (MoA)

The Ministry of Agriculture coordinates the implementation of agricultural, cooperative and rural development policies. The specific functions which will be pursued by the Ministry include: rural development policy; agricultural policy; crop production and marketing; land use policy; pests and disease control; agricultural research; phytosanitary services; information management for agricultural sector; cooperatives; regional development authorities; among others.

  • KENYA AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH INSTITUTE (KARI)

A parastatal established under the Science and Technology Act (Cap 250) with the national mandate to carry out research activities covering agricultural and livestock development through its 17 research centers countrywide. KARI seeds units need to multiply enough planting material for farmers in their mandate areas.

  • KENYA PLANT HEALTH INSPECTORATE SERVICE (KEPHIS)

KEPHIS was established by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service Order, 1996 under the State Corporations Act (Cap 446). It is mandated to : co-ordinate all matters related to pests and disease control; monitor the quality and levels of toxic residue in plants, their soils and products; administer Plant Breeders Rights; undertake inspection, testing, certification, quarantine control, variety testing and description of seeds and planting materials; establish the machinery for educating public on safe use of agro-chemicals; approve import application for seeds, plants and appropriate phytosanitary requirements and importation of such material; and be responsible for inspection of produce for export and import.

  • KENYA BUREAU OF STANDARDS (KEBS)

It is a parastatal established under the Standards Act ( Cap 496). Its primary function is to promote standardization in commerce and industry through development of standards, quality control, certification and metrology. It has the mandate of establishing and enforcing quality standards of all products on the Kenyan Market, both locally produced and imported. It is evident that the roles of KEPHIS and that of KEBS overlap thereby creating a conflict. Given that KEPHIS specializes in plants, the Standards Act should be amended to exclude seeds, planting materials, horticultural and other agricultural produce.

  • KENYA INDUSTRY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT INSTITUTE (KIRDI)

It is a parastatal established under the Science and Technology Act (Cap 250). It is mandated to undertake research and development in industrial and allied technologies.

KIRDI collaborates with Ministry of Agriculture and other stakeholders in technology development and transfer processing of tubers

  • UNIVERSITIES AND COLLEGES OF AGRICULTURE

Among the universities and colleges, Nairobi, Jomo Kenyatta, Moi, Egerton, Baraton and Bukura provide courses at degree and diploma levels related to agriculture, environment and are also involved in research.

  • MINISTRY OF HEALTH (MOH)

Liaises with stakeholders in agriculture industry to ensure hygiene in market and public places. It also protects Kenyan consumers from the health risks of contaminated food. The Ministry ensures regular inspection of food premises to ensure they conform to health requirements. Also, inspection of food imports at ports of entry is made in order to detect foreign diseases. It participates in promotion of food hygiene curricula in schools.

Sweet potatoes especially orange fleshed varieties should be promoted by the ministry in nutritional management of HIV/AIDS, high blood pressure, obesity

  • MINISTRY ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES

The Ministry is responsible for environmental policy, environmental impact assessment, catchment area conservation, water conservation, among others.

  • MINISTRY OF ROADS AND PUBLIC WORKS (MoR&PW)

The Ministry is responsible for construction, maintenance and rehabilitation of classified roads. The road network accounts for 80% of the country’s total passenger and freight traffic.

  • MINISTRY OF INFORMATION, TRANSPORT AND COMMUNICATION (MoIT&C)

The Ministry is responsible for postal and telecommunication services as well as transport by railways, road, sea, lake and air in Kenya. It is also in charge of harbors, ports, and metrological services, among others.

  • LOCAL AUTHORITIES (CITY, MUNICIPAL, TOWN, URBAN AND COUNTY COUNCILS)

They develop market and market infrastructure for agricultural produce among others. They are also responsible for collection and disposal of garbage, provision of sanitary facilities and land allocation for marketing facilities.

  • Others include KENFAP

REFERENCES

  1. Variety characteristics and production Guidelines of traditional Food crops-MOA,IFAD and KARI(2006)
  2. Nutritive value, health Benefits and Selected Recipes of sweet potato,banana, Soya beans and Grain amaranth-MoA( 2006)
  3. Seed bulking guidelines for Traditional Food crops(MoA, KARI ,IFAD-2007)
  4. Field crops Technical Handbook(MoA-2002)
  5. Kilimo news magazine(AIRC/MoA)
  6. Nutritious Kenyan Sweet potato recipes-Training manual NO1 for Extension workers-CIP/PRAPACE &ILARI (June2007)
  7. Healthy Foods. George D. Pamplona – Rodger -2007
  8. East African Agriculture. A textbook for secondary school, D.N.Ngugi et al Revised 1986
  9. www.biosafetyafrica.net –Sweet potato.
  10. www.cipotato.org –sweet potato diseases
  11. www.infonet_biovision.org
  12. Frontline Extension workers manual.
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