Sweet potato farmers will soon realize value for money for their efforts, following the launch of the Sweet Potato Value Chain Development Project.
The six months project seeks to develop different products from sweet potatoes, with wheat substitution as the major goal, but also help farmers earn more from sweet potatoes.
The initiative will also increase production, in addition to creating jobs along the value chain.
The Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation is supporting the project through the Consortium for Enhancing University Responsiveness to Agribusiness Development in Uganda (CURAD).
Dr. Frank Matsiko, the principal investigator of the project, noted that sweet potatoes have been neglected for long yet it is a commercial crop.
Through the project, products will be developed and tested by research scientists from Makerere University and partner institutions before they are sent to the market.
Suggested products include sweet potato flour, purées that can be used in chapati making, chips, snacks, bread, and sweet potato gin, among other products.
He added that all people including farmers along the value chain will benefit. These include primary producers, transporters, processors, marketers, and consumers.
“People who will benefit directly through sales of fresh tubers that can be turned into chips. Bodaboda riders will earn from transporting the sweet potato. There will be somebody at the canteen ready to sell the snacks made from sweet potatoes; ultimately all these activities will create employment,” he added.
He made the remarks on Thursday, during the project launch at CURAD offices in Namanve, Industrial Area.
CURAD executive director Apollo Segawa said to further develop the products, the consortium was working with scientists across the board to develop new products from sweet potatoes for increased farm income and wheat import substitution with sweet potato flour.
“We are discussing with scientists across the board, how to develop new products out of sweet potatoes and farmers earning more incomes but also wheat import substitution and all these will lead to stable markets,” he said.
Segawa added that the six months would cover the first phase of the project, which is product development, where the team will be working with existing sweet potato farmer groups or co-operatives, and processors as they prepare for the second phase.
The second phase, Segawa said, will consider the promotion of sweet potato production, which now stands at 1.8 million metric tonnes.
However, the production will focus on selected varieties, especially those that are good for value addition, according to Gaston Tumuhimbise, a food scientist from Makerere University.
Other varieties that will be considered under the project include; Ejumula, Kakerenga, SPK004,6, Naspot 8, 9, 10, and 13.
Apart from having vitamin A, these also contain nutrients, such as protein, zinc, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin E and C, fiber, and starch among others.
Sweet potato varieties
Caroline Komujuni, a sweet potato processor under the Namugongo Millers, hopes the initiative will increase the production of sweet potato varieties with good processing qualities.
Komujuni also wants the project to tackle the provision of machinery, especially dryers and special storage bags which absorb moisture.