Photo credit: DiasporaEngager (www.DiasporaEngager.com).

As the dawn broke over Tororo in eastern Uganda, we expected to see the usual fieldwork activity in this largely “white cereal” community. We were here to promote orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP) and train people in vine multiplication, but we knew that many in the community were still doubtful about the nutritional and economic value of this crop.  

The International Potato Center (CIP) began promoting OFSP in Tororo in 2020 through its Development and Development of Biofortified Crops at Scale (DDBIO) program, funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (formerly DFID). Work with OFSP begins with vine multiplication to produce clean, disease-free planting materials for farmers to use. 

Our doubts were put to rest on the first day of training when we met Aceng Immaculate. Her enthusiasm and energy were immediately apparent. As the leader of a local farmers groups – Baringanuya Paminyuny Multipurpose Cooperative Society – she was instrumental in helping recruit our first decentralized vine multipliers, or DVMs. 

Immaculate’s cooperative has a mostly female membership and they are well-known in the area for addressing malnutrition and food security issues. In addition to OFSP, they also produce seed for maize, beans, simsim and ground nuts, which they sell to farmers in the region.  

For Immaculate, the inspiration for her work is simple: “Our sole purpose is to continually improve food security and make sure the children in our community get an education. 

Aceng Immaculate (middle, blue shirt) and members from her cooperative listen to an agriculture officer explain how to harvest OFSP vines for sale (photo: S. Namanda/CIP) 

The cooperative currently multiplies vines on a 1,200 square meter plot but they hope to expand in the future. They work with four OFSP varieties at present: Kakamega, Naspot 8, Naspot 13, and Ejumula – each of which is nutritious and high-yielding. 

The vines have been distributed to more than 1,500 families in Tororo and each member of the cooperative kept 500 cuttings to plant on their own. 

The group’s first challenge was keeping the vines healthy in the dry season from December to March. They quickly learned that irrigation and fencing are good friends to have to keep their vines alive and growing. 

Once the vines are planted in the ground, at the start of the rainy season, the group stays busy teaching nutrition education to families throughout the area. “We carry out some trainings within ourselves as women and mothers to teach each other about the proper ways to feed our children and help them grow well,” says Immaculate.  

Along with nutrition education, the group also provides lessons on business planning so that DVMs can track expenses and profit of their sales and develop strategies for growing their business. 

So now as the sun sets over Tororo, we feel less anxious, more hopeful for the future of this community and the rise of OFSP as part of a healthy household.  

Norman Kwikiriza and Awat Lynette

Source of original article: International Potato Center (cipotato.org).
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