Farmer helping others get clean high yielding sweet potatoes

A Nyamira County farmer, who started a sweetpotato nursery bed propagation programme with an international organisation, is helping other agripreneurs access high yielding disease-free planting materials.

James Mochere raises the orange-fleshed sweet-potatoes (OFSP), which he got from the International Potato Centre (CIP) in 2013, in nursery beds.

His move was to help sweetpotato farmers who acquire free vines for planting from neighbours and relatives. Because of the rotational use, the vines are prone to infections like sweetpotato virus diseases and weevils. This lowers production, and in severe cases, causes total losses.

“After training with the CIP, I found the project worth trying. Besides helping me meet food demands for my family, I also earn cash to meet my other basic needs,” he said.

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Mochere raises Kabode and Vita, which are among the five CIP varieties. CIP agronomist Dr Sammy Agili said OFSP varieties are rich in vitamin A, hitting 14mg per 100g of fresh weight.

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The farmer started with clean vine cuttings from the Nairobi-based international organisation. Two out of the three-node cuttings are buried into the soil while one remains on the surface.

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CIP field officers regularly inspect the nurseries to ensure the vines are healthy. In about two months, the vines grow to between four and five feet.

“I pick three or four cuttings of one foot from every shoot for sale. New shoots are ready for another cutting in three weeks,” he says.

From his four 5feet by 10feet nursery beds, he gets about 1000 shoots at once. He sells the planting materials to farmers at Sh100 per 200 cuttings.

Upon filling the sales coupon, CIP also gives him another Sh100 on top of every 200 pieces sold.

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The vines are planted at a spacing of 10cm by 20cm in five lines in every nursery bed.

On average, he makes about Sh1,500 per month from the four beds.

“Sales may go even higher when the rains are plenty. The vines, however, dry out if planted when it is dry and a farmer does not have irrigation means,” the Nyansabakwa Village farmer said.

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To avoid such losses during the dry spells, the Mochere said, CIP buys all the ready vines for sale to other farmers around the country who may not be affected by drought. For instance in June 2016, the organisation bought vines worth Sh5,000.

Each of the two varieties is housed in a different nursery, which is covered with a light penetration net that keeps off all insect pests.

Mochere occasionally gives free vines to expectant mothers and parents of children under five years so that they can benefit from the rich vitamin A.

He has also grown the two varieties separately on an eighth of an acre. He said each of the vines gives three to five tubers. If they are three, then the storage roots are heavy with some reaching even a kilo.

PHOTO: James Mochere poses with his two sons nest to one of the orange-fleshed sweet-potato nursery bed at his home in Nyansabakwa, Nyamira County on August 13,2016. He provides clean potato planting materials to farmers with the help of International Potato Centre (CIP). PHOTO BY LABAN ROBERT.

He can be reached on +254727751288.