By Nudge Sustainability Reporter Trish Nyarumbu
Over the years the production of Sweet potatoes (Ipomea batatas) as a commercial crop in Zimbabwe has been increasing due to its numerous advantages as compared to other root and tuber crops. The crop has minimal input requirements yet yields highly. Sweet potatoes store well and can be a famine reserve crop especially with the increased effects of climate change being currently experienced in Zimbabwe. The water requirements of the crop are minimal compared to cereals, which is the main source of carbohydrates in the local diet.
Sweet potato field in Mashonaland East, Zimbabwe
The government of Zimbabwe and some local NGOs are therefore promoting the production of root and tuber crops, especially sweet potatoes, to complement the nation’s’ carbohydrate requirements. Post-harvest handling, processing and marketing are also key as farmers should be enlightened on best methods to achieve quality and and gain maximum value of the crop.
Through shows, trainings and field days around the country, farmers are being educated on the need to use tissue cultured planting materials that is free of pests and diseases, especially viruses for these reduce yields of the crop. The country has also seen an active use of Biotechnology as an important tool by local universities, private companies and research Institutions in improving agricultural productivity of sweet potatoes.
Different varieties of sweet potato tubers, locally known as GermanyII (left) and Chingovha (right)
The country has a wide range of varieties with skin colour and flesh colour making then unique. Farmers are encouraged to grow what the market demands. Orange fleshed varieties have been promoted lately because of high beta carotene which is known to be good for the eyes.