Since time immemorial, field days have been used to educate farmers on good agronomic practices (GAP) and promote adoption of improved technologies by farmers. The Genetic Advances and Innovative Seed Systems for Sweet potato (SweetGAINS) project organized three farmer field days from 13th – 19th September 2022 on sweet potato demonstration gardens in Kamuli and Buyende Districts. A total of 16 demos were established to showcase GAP for increased production of improved sweet potato seed and food as a way of enhancing food security and increased incomes.
Over 300 farmers, seed producers processors and NGOs from the two districts participated in the three field days, which trained on rapid vine multiplication, use of clean seed and GAPs to enhance production and productivity of sweet potato varieties NAROSPOT 1 and Tanzania introduced to the community by the project. Alongside the demonstration gardens the project also supported commercial seed multipliers to form and register Busoga Seed Producer & Marketing Cooperative. The cooperative is aimed at aimed at mobilizing and empowering farmers to produce high quality sweet potato vine seed; collectively market their produce at relatively better prices; encourage savings mobilization; and enhance capacity of actors in the sweet potato vine seed marketing value chain.
According to Mudhola Sophia, a farmer in Kamuli, the demonstrations and field days have enhanced farmers’ knowledge and skills in sweet potato farming. “We’ve acquired knowledge on the performance of clean vines, better agronomic practices and rapid seed production,” she said. The Iganga Districts Agricultural Officer-Mr. Sula Nantatya urged farmers to use the starter seed secured to generate more planting materials for the communities. He also cautioned them to timely manage sweet potato pests and diseases to combat yield loses.
During the field days, Mukama Afayo Farmer Development Group and BUSECO received certification for their sweet potato mother gardens containing 5,000 bags and 9,700 bags of vines respectively for the 2022B season. These comprise varieties including NASPOT 13, NASPOT 8, Kakamega, NASPOT1 and Tanzania. Through the SweetGAINS project, one farmer cooperative has been registered to produce and commercialize sweet potato vines.
Tanzania’s CIP representative Kwame Ogero said that registration of a cooperation for vine multipliers and training of producers is a big step forward and encourages farmers to embrace its services. The SweetGAINS project is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and implemented by National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO), International Potato Center (CIP) and Volunteer Efforts for Development Concerns (VEDCO).