Sweet potatoes can provide both food and money

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Sweet potato is highly nutritious. The orange fleshed variety has vitamin A that addresses deficiency among children and even adults. Sweet potatoes fetch good prices in the market all year round because few farmers grow them.

Sweet potato is a popular food especially in Kenya’s Western region. Most of the varieties are drought resistant, hardy and can grow in marginal areas (dry areas), thus contributing to improved food security. The sweet potato tubers are a rich source of vitamin A, dietary fibres and minerals. The orange fleshed sweet potato variety has increasingly gained popularity because it is known to boost the immune system.

Importance of Sweet potato in Kenya

• Climate change is affecting amount and rainfall patterns, sweet potatoes is a more drought tolerant crop.

• It is a low-input crop making it ideal for many small-scale farmers; the crop does not require pesticides or fertilizers.

• Production presents an opportunity for farmers to improve their food security situation and income from the sale of the surplus tubers.

• The ability of sweet potato to establish ground cover very fast enables suppression of weeds such as striga, control of soil erosion and maintenance of soil fertility hence making it an important crop for Kenya's farming systems.

Prospects in Kenya Sweet potato is now consumed by many Kenyans of all socioeconomic classes. Many families and hotels are coming up with more creative recipes other than boiling the tubers. Sweet potatoes are regarded as a natural nutritious food due to the fact that they are grown without chemicals hence taken as a healthier dietary choice.

Popular in both local and 5-star hotels

In major producing areas marketing in most cases is through some merchants from major towns like Mombasa, Nairobi and Nakuru. They contract the farmers and purchase their tubers at wholesale prices from their farms. Sweet potato is relatively cheap for households and serves as a good substitute for bread and cakes. The demand for sweet potatoes is increasing country wide with entrepreneurs venturing in sweet potato processing.

Other Opportunities

• Seed bulking – to produce and sell high quality vines/ cuttings to other farmers.

• Livestock feed – growing of sweet potatoes as fodder also manufacturing livestock feeds.

• Industrial use – Starch is produced from sweet potatoes for industrial use (garment factories).

• Production of composite flours – (mixed with millet, sorghum, groundnuts, banana flour).

Requirements for growing sweet potato


Annual rainfall of 750-1000mm annually is best for production however some varieties are known to be drought tolerant. Although sweet potato can tolerate drought to some extent, yields drastically reduce when drought occurs during the first 6 weeks after planting and at root formation and development.


Sweet potato is essentially a warm weather crop. Growth is best at temperature above 24°C. When temperatures fall below 10°C, growth is severely retarded.


Sweet potato grows best on sandy-loam soils and does poorly on clay soils. Good drainage is essential since the crop cannot withstand water logging. A soil pH of 5.6 – 6.6 is preferred. It is sensitive to alkaline or saline soils, and such soils should be avoided. Where the water table is high, the crop is planted on mounds or on ridges. Soils with high bulk density or poor aeration tend to retard tuber formation and result in reduced yields.


Both local and improved varieties are grown

• Sweet potato varieties differ from one another in the colour of the tuber skin (usually white, brown yellow, reddish purple), colour of the tuber flesh (usually white or yellow), shape of the tuber, shape of the leaves, depth of rooting, time of maturity, resistance to disease and other vegetative characteristics.

• Varieties whose flesh is yellow-orange coloured have high levels of carotenes used in synthesis of vitamin A. This is particularly important in parts of North Eastern, Coastal, Western and Nyanza regions where Vitamin A deficiency is prevalent.

Improved varieties that are grown in Kenya

SPK 013, SPK 004, Kemb 20, Kemb 23, Kemb10, KSP 20, KSP 11, Mugande Muibai, Ex-Diani, Mafuta, Japanese pumpkin and CIP Selection, 420009.

1. Kemb 10 and SPK 004 are suitable for most areas of the country.

2. KSP 20, KSP 11 and CIP, 420009 have shown good per- formance in dry areas.

3. SPK 013 is recommended for the Western zone including the Lake Basin.

4. Kemb 23 and Ex-Diani are suitable for Central and Coastal lowlands.

5. Mafuta is suitable for all sweet potato producing areas and is best for foliage production. It is of great significance for farmers to note that the most traded variety of sweet potato in Kenya is the red skinned and yellow-fleshed because of its high consumer demand. High yielding vines (seed) can be obtained at KALRO Regional Research Centres Country wide and from some farmers.

Planning production

• Ensure climatic production requirement are met

• Source for adequate clean planting material and variety that the market requires

• Plan for marketing in advance.

Source: Complete guide on sweet potato farming in Kenya - Helen Omondi Kaundo

More reading on Sweet Potato Article: http://www.infonet-biovision.org/PlantHealth/Crops/Sweet-potato


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