By lydiah Nyambura

 Freshly harvested Sweet potatoes and cassava tubers

Sweet potatoes and cassava plays a pivotal role in the human diet. They provide a substantial part of the world’s food supply and are also an important source of animal feed. These two crops can be propagated by vegetative parts and these include tubers stem cuttings (cassava), vine cuttings (sweet potatoes).The contribution of roots and tubers to the energy supply in different populations varies. Nutritionally, roots and tubers have a great potential to provide economical sources of dietary energy, in the form of carbohydrates.

In Baringo County a semi arid in Kenya, these two root crops are now used to curb hunger which is often experienced due to their adaptability and low water requirements.  In the rural  areas, women are both farmers and the main caretakers in their families, and are constantly worried about their children’s nutrition and health. In the past years, women have been forced to feed their children on wild fruits that they boil to make them fit for human consumption.

Peris in her farm

Currently, women sets aside land to grow crops for their families’ own consumption, rather than practicing monoculture maize farming for market. Cassava and sweet potato does well in various temperatures and their availability can be all year round when good farming practices are followed thus can help to curb food insecurity. “The benefit of sweet potato and cassava is unlimited. In a word: Multipurpose. These are crop that are good for human cattle consumption and health, increasing nutrition and also boosting our income. .” Peris quotes.

Peris Chebet a  48 years old is a farmer  in Baringo Sandai location in Kapchepkendi village. She has been practicing farming long enough as she can remember but in 3 years she has been growing maize and paw paw in her 1 acre farm. Her family depend on this garden for livelihood but she generates income from maize farming which she have to wait for a whole year and after getting the profit from maize it doesn’t last for even 3 months in sustaining her family and the  farm is left bare for her cattle grazing before she start again in preparation for maize. Her paw paw are few and thus she doesn’t expect much from them. She has been willing to change her enterprise to a much higher generating income crop but she didn’t know which one to choose and also didn’t have access to any other seeds apart from maize from Kenya Seed Company.

Two years ago, she was fortunate to meet us  through her group of which they were provided with sweet potato vines and cassava cuttings for multiplication. Peris has so far multiplied the sweet potato vines and cassava cuttings and has covered a quarter of her land portion. Currently she is selling her sweet potato and cassava tubers surplus to neighbors and market sellers after home consumption. She has been consuming this tubers for the last two years now and unlike other farmers who might be taking tea only in the morning, she is able to have her cassava and sweet potato for breakfast with her family. She is feeding her family comprising of 5 children being a widow and with no formal employment. She can now sell sweet potato vines and cassava cuttings to neighbors which has given her some money to meet daily expenses in her family.

“I’m glad that I got this vines and cuttings. As you can see am expanding my garden for more sweet potato and cassava now that I have multiplied them in big quantities .This is possible since they don’t require much water and still they do well even under various temperatures I am glad I can feed my family and have something to sell. Am also happy that I give my kids a healthy breakfast and can skip lunch when they take sweet potatoes in the morning. My neighbor’s keeps asking me when next are we receiving this seeds but I usually sell them while others I give out as gift. Come next time you will get many farmers in my neighborhood with lots of sweet potatoes and cassava.  I thank Seed Savers Network for this training and free seeds and I will continue training more farmers to join me in farming this amazing crops that we had lost”. She quotes

The production of tubers will help to fill the gaps, delivering more food from the same amount of land with less waste and lower greenhouse gas emissions hence farmers should embrace their production