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Gender and Vines: Production, Management and Exchange of Sweetpotato Planting Material Among Smallholders in the Lake Victoria Region, Tanzania

Sweetpotato is the fourth most important crop and the second most important food crop in the Tanzania Lake Victoria region and plays a critical role as a food security crop, e.g. when cereal crops fail. Sweet potato is primarily grown and managed by women and is considered a woman’s crop. As part of the CIP-led Sweetpotato Action for Security and Health in Africa initiative funded by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Marando Bora project, implemented by Catholic Relief Services and other partners, seeks to improve farmers’ access to quality planting material of improved sweet potato varieties in the Lake Victoria region. The documentation of farmers’ local knowledge and practices related to sweet potato planting material in Africa is relatively scarce. The objective of the study presented here is to contribute to filling this knowledge gap and specifically, to assess the role of women in relation to the production and management of sweet potato planting material. In-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with 29 farmers from three communities in the Lake Victoria region. The qualitative data is complemented by analysis of a survey involving 621 households across nine districts in the Lake Victoria region in 2010. The findings confirm that sweet potato is a female crop in the study area. Local knowledge about sweet potato cultivation is concentrated in the learned experience of female farmers who participate in all the work surrounding sweetpotato production, including the management of planting material and control and sales. The conclusions and recommendations from the study raise important issues for the discussion of gender and local knowledge in relation to sweetpotato seed system interventions.