If you met Clementine Uwanyirigira, you would easily believe she has a white collar job in a top-tier company. Uwanyirigira’s orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) production is the white-collar job, and her large piece of land the top-tier company she works for.
Today, the mother of five can pay all her bills, comfortably pay her children’s school fees and meet all their needs because of her OFSP farm.
Life has however not always been paradise for this small-scale farmer in Kinyababa near the border of Uganda. Before she started growing OFSP, she was dependent on the crops like egg plants intercropped with cabbage that she planted on her small piece of land. Harvest was not guaranteed because of their low value at the local market and often, she barely had enough for use, let alone save.
Clementine’s situation worsened one time when drought struck her village devouring all her crops and stripping her off a means of survival. Her four-year old daughter had to drop out of kindergarten.
“Nothing survived, I could only watch helplessly as the biting drought rendered everything lifeless. I could not keep my daughter in school anymore since I didn’t have a means of finding the 9,000 Rwf, required to pay for her school fees,” says Clementine.
At the time, Clementine did not know that the drought would be her blessing in disguise. As one way of ensuring that the people were kept nourished even during famine, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in conjunction with the International Potato Center (CIP) began distributing vigorous sweetpotato vines that are drought resistant. Clementine’s household received a bundle of vines.
Over time, this bundle of vines has come to make a big impact in her life. “This crop survived the season. In my last harvest, I made 25,000 Rwf ($31) out of OFSP sales. I am awaiting my third harvest in a few months. My daughter returned to school and I have some savings,” she says.
The project that Clementine has benefitted from is implemented in rural districts to empower small scale farmers with highly nutritious and profitable sweetpotato varieties. The project targets people like Clementine, that is, women in reproductive age and those with children under the age of five.
After the first harvest, most of these farmers have decided to make sweetpotato cultivation a driving wheel of her household’s economic growth. Clementine explains that apart from being high yielding and nutritious, OFSP attract a high price as compared to the local varieties. At one local market in her village, the local white-fleshed varieties cost 120 Rwf per kilogram, approximatively US $ 0.15 dollars, whereas the orange-fleshed ones can sell for up to 200Rwf (US 0.24 dollars).
“This is my main motivation of placing them at the center of my income generation activities,” Clementine announces proudly. This is now her number one crop, and she is already negotiating for a larger piece of land, which will enable her to expand her production.