Sharing Knowledge, Giving Voice

Radio helps farmers find better buyers for orange-fleshed sweet potato

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It’s a happy day for Linet Nalugo Musana. She straightens up to take a short break from harvesting, holding a hoe and a potato in her hands. From a distance, seeing hoes moving up and down, one would think they were preparing land for planting. But Linet and a group of other farmers are busy digging up orange-fleshed sweet potatoes.

The 48-year-old farmer lives in Mpoma village in central Uganda’s Mukono District. For five years, Linet has been growing orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. She says the potatoes are the colour of pawpaw, are drought-resistant, and are rich in vitamin A.

She decided to grow this new sweet potato five years ago in an effort to earn more income from her farm. She explains: “I was growing the ordinary variety of potatoes which was not profitable, until experts came and introduced the orange-fleshed sweet potatoes to us in 2013.”

Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are special because they are rich in vitamin A, which is an important vitamin for children and pregnant women. Farm Radio International has been working with partners in Uganda for several years to educate farmers about orange-fleshed sweet potato. HarvestPlus has been one of our major partners, as they promote biofortified crops that address hidden malnutrition.

Linet first received orange-fleshed sweet potato vines from a local non-governmental organization called Volunteer Efforts for Development Concerns, or VEDCO. But she got the knowledge and skills to grow the new kind of potato by listening to agricultural radio programs on Radio Simba and CBS FM. Both stations broadcast programs that specifically targetted orange-fleshed sweet potato farmers.

Linet says that since she started growing orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, she has learned about planting methods, pest control, and using herbicides. This information, learned from the radio, has helped to increase her production.

For this most recent project, we worked with Radio Simba, CBS FM, and Mega FM to broadcast a short Radio Marketplace program. A Radio Markplace is a participatory radio series that addresses market linkages or market barriers.

Since switching to orange-fleshed sweet potato, Linet has found that her potato crop is more profitable. She earns up to $820 US per year from her six acres of orange-fleshed sweet potatoes.

She has even connected with new buyers thanks to the radio. At first, she only sold to her friends and then to middlemen. But the radio program introduced her to new buyers, who she contacted directly.

She supplies 45 kilograms of orange-fleshed sweet potatoes to Uganda Cancer Institute each week. Mrs. Musana says the Institute gives cancer patients the potatoes to boost their immune systems. The Institute and various schools are now her major clients—and she found them by listening to the radio.

Finding buyers through radio programs has enabled Linet to pay for her children’s education, which has changed her family’s life. She says: “Two of my children have graduated from Uganda Christian University with bachelor’s degrees in business administration. One is about to complete engineering from the same university and the last one is joining Makerere University for a bachelor’s degree in meteorology.”

This story was written by Sawa Pius, a freelance journalist, for Barza Wire, our online agricultural news service.

This was part of the “Interactive radio for biofortified crop promotion” project that was conducted in partnership with HarvestPlus,a global alliance of agriculture and nutrition research institutions working to increase the micronutrient density of staple food crops through biofortification. The project also discussed iron-rich beans.