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Sweetpotato in Tanzanian Farming and Food Systems: Implications for Research

This report synthesizes information gathered from nearly 900 farmers in surveys carried out between 1991 and 1993 in selected areas of Tanzania. The information obtained is intended to improve the relevance of research planning and priority setting for the increased production and marketing of sweetpotato. Sample areas were chosen to represent different agro-climatic zones, soil characteristics, topography, and social cultural conditions. Sweetpotato is grown throughout Tanzania. Nationally, it is the third most important root and tuber crop after cassava and round (Solanum) potato. In national food production, it ranks fourth after maize, cassava, and beans.  The crop plays an important role in household food security and is produced mainly for home consumption. It occupies approximately 14% of the total arable land of the farms surveyed.  The crop is most important in the Lake and Eastern Zones, moderately important in Southern highlands and Northern zones; and less important in the southern and Central zones. Average yields of fresh sweetpotato storage roots are very low- a rough estimate of the mean yield at farm level is 5.5 tons per hectare. Sweetpotato roots are primarily consumed fresh, most usually just boiled, although they are also roasted and used as an ingredient in some traditional dishes. Processing into sun-dried chips or slices, termed Matoborwa and Michembe, is common in the Lake Zone, but is completely unknown in the Northern Zone. Storage of fresh roots in pits is common in the Southern highlands zone. Leaves are used as a vegetable mainly in Central and Southern Zones, and as fodder in Northern Zone. A major production constraint is the susceptibility of many of the varieties currently grown to sweetpotato weevils and diseases. Improved characteristics which farmers would like to see include: good root-cooking characteristics, extended in ground storability, high market value, and drought tolerance. Major constraints limiting production in the order of importance mentioned by farmers include: sweetpotato weevils (Cylas spp. and Blocyrus spp.), drought, shortage of planting material, low roots yield, vertebrate pest (moles, rats, pigs), viral and fungal diseases, poor market accessibility, storage pest (larger grain borers), and low soil fertility. Sweetpotato is about equally likely to be grown as a sole crop or as an intercrop. Maize, cassava, and beans are the most common intercrops with sweetpotato. Harvesting is mainly carried out piecemeal, a few roots at a time, over an extended harvest period. Female farmers play a big role in sweetpotato production, processing, and marketing activities. A priority for research is the development of sweetpotato varieties with resistance to pest and disease, high yields, and good root characteristics. Drought-tolerant varieties combined with early planting to avoid dry spells could alleviate widespread crop loss due to drought. Techniques in rapid multiplication of sweetpotato planting material should be extended to farmers and village extensionists for the sustainable and reliable supply of planting material. Post-harvest handling techniques should be improved to minimize losses. Diversified use of sweetpotato and the development of new products which use the crop as an ingredient would open up new markets, which in urn would be an incentive to farmers to increase productivity per unit area.

Authors: Regina E. Kapinga, Peter T. Ewell, Simon C. Jeremiah, Robert Kileo, Regina E. Kapinga, Peter T. Ewell, Simon C. Jeremiah, Robert Kileo

Contributors: Administrator, Administrator

Subjects: Crop Management

Pages:

Publisher: International Potato Center

Publication Date: 1995

Rights: Limited access

Keywords: Adverse climates, Post Harvest bottleneck, Sweetpotato weevil, Tanzania

HOW TO CITE

Ewell, P.T., Jeremiah, S.C.; Kileo, R. and Kapinga, R.E. 1995. Sweetpotato in Tanzania farming and food systems implication for research. International Potato Center (CIP). 47 pp.