Five years after deciding to venture into Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP) farming, Festo Mashuda is a happy man and a renowned OFSP vine multiplier in the Coastal region of Tanzania.
Mashuda’s story begun in September 2013 when he came across an agricultural excerpt in a local daily that highlighted the nutritional benefits of OFSP especially vitamin A. Being a farmer, this caught his attention and he started looking for more information. He looked for the author of the article, who connected him to Hellen Keller International (HKI), who in turn recommended him to the SRI-Kibaha government research station. HKI provided Mhando with two bags of vines and SRI- Kibaha, through the Reaching Agents of Change (RAC) project, provided him with two more bags.
“My first harvest yielded 78 fifty-kilogram bags of vines which were all bought by the Tanzania Social Action Fund (a government institution) at a price that allowed me to break even and make a profit . This gave me the morale to continue farming” he said.
Through the proceeds of selling OFSP vines and roots, he has been able to purchase 17 acres of agricultural land in Dar es Salaam and Mwanza; buy equipment such as irrigation pumps and sprinklers and fund a sustainable vine and root farming business which continues to grow in size and proceeds.
The next harvest produced 600 fifty-kilogram bags which were all bought by a USAID funded project and sent to farmers in Mbeya, Iringa and Morogoro. This gave him the confidence to venture into root production as there seemed to be a market for the roots as well.
“I have never looked back and I am proud that other farmers look up to me when they want to venture into the same business,” said Mhando. The Ministry of Agriculture in conjunction with several NGOs have facilitated many knowledge sharing and capacity building workshops which have greatly benefited Festo over the years.
“Kibaha station has been regularly supporting me and providing me with good quality seed”, he added.
Customers for his vines are both institutional and individual. Institutional buyers purchase the larger percentage of vines. Some farmers buy cuttings and others traditional vines. He sells a cutting for Tsh 25– 35 (USD 0.01 – 0.02). He plans to increase the price this year. Festo’s farms are yet to be inspected by the seed quality assurance national authority, TOSCI, although plans are underway to do carry out the inspection and get certification this year.
Bakers and supermarkets prefer the Mataya, Jewel and Kiegeya OFSP varieties while flour millers prefer Kabode and Ejumula varieties. The Polista is the preferred white fleshed sweet potato variety as it is very sweet and starchy.
The decision to undertake OFSP vine multiplication and root farming five years ago is one of the best decisions that Mashuda has made in his life. It has proved to be a sustainable and rewarding business venture.