On a slow Saturday morning, most would want to sleep away the exhaustion of the week but the ground is set for Christ is the Answer Ministries(CITAM) family sports day in Buruburu, Nairobi Kenya. For George Aristotle, this presented an opportunity to spread the Orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP) gospel to his church. He knows very well that the audience is ripe for him; families, church leaders, businessmen.
The passion that oozes out as he explains the benefits of the OFSP is clear. Through the support of the Technology for African Agricultural Transformation( TAAT) OFSP compact implemented by the International Potato Center (CIP) and funded by the African Development Bank, he is well equipped for the day. The OFSP roots are neatly placed at the edge of the table, resilient nutritious sweetpotato flyers blend in next. This is not all, copies of OFSP recipes published on the sweetpotato knowledge portal and a pack of OFSP puree sit next to in line. At the other end of the table, a nice aroma from OFSP muffins and samosas is quite inviting, thanks to Bakery World in Buruburu supplying him for the day. And oh, he will be selling fresh OFSP roots at 70 shillings per kg. Let the service begin.
“There is a problem and I decided to be part of the solution. The problem is the high prevalence of Vitamin A deficiency and the solution is OFSP” he says enthusiastically. George Aristotle is a young entrepreneur with a passion for OFSP farming. He is a commercial OFSP vine multiplier in Kirinyaga County but also selling the roots from his farm in the capital, Nairobi. In his six-acre farm, he grows OFSP roots on a two acre space and the other is left for vine multiplication. Only a year and a half ago, Aristotle, like most commercial farmers in the region, had never heard of the business opportunities within the sweetpotato value chain. One encounter with a sweetpotato processor who was buying equipment from his employer raised his interest in OFSP.
Aristotle does not regret venturing into the OFSP farming. “The journey with OFSP is exciting but at the same time needs a lot of seriousness. Ideally it looks easy but when the rubber meets the road, it requires a lot of passion. The value chain is wide” He says as he seeks to explore new ideas and opportunities in the value chain. The challenges which he considers positive challenges have come along the way but not without opportunities in equal measure. As a commercial farmer, water must be available for irrigation all through. The labor is required and for Aristotle it comes with trainings on how to handle sweetpotato. The goal is to have high quality roots which he says should be clear for anyone involved. According to him, this sets a standard for the work that is so engaging. Post-harvest handling is still another major issue but having attended trainings from CIP, he says has added to his knowledge about OFSP storage, root development and vine multiplication. Through this he has also interacted with farmers and processors from Rwanda and Ghana giving him lessons to take back home on the space and opportunities available.
When asked about the marketing strategies he has employed, Aristotle says, “At any point and location I’m in, I am an OFSP ambassador. I create awareness and as a result create a need. Once I have this then I satisfy the need.” Social media has also given him another opportunity with his Facebook page Elim Farm Kenya all branded out in Orange, slowly picking up. A website is also in the offing that will allow clients to order and buy online. For the vines, he invites farmers to his farm to experience firsthand how he does it. Free samples also create a need among potential clients. TAAT Technology Transfer Officer, Daniel Mbogo Says TAAT OFSP compact seeks to partner with such youth agripreneurs to identify and support businesses along OFSP value chain. “Most farmers focus on primary root production and leave to other actors to market the roots. I recognize George’s unique approach in that he has gone steps further to develop a niche market for his OFSP through this initiative at CITAM Buruburu. CIP and TAAT OFSP compact will partner with him and others like him in the OFSP value chain to achieve increased productivity and production, higher incomes, nutrition and food security” he says.
As a result of his entrepreneurial spirit and investment of the day, Aristotle now has his book full of orders for the OFSP roots and clean planting material. All roots have been sold and all the flyers distributed and out of this, he has a new market. On 3rd November, he has earned an invite to present on business opportunities in OFSP value chain at a breakfast meeting at CITAM. Also, the CITAM school management want to discuss the possibility of assimilating the OFSP into their meals. If it pulls through he will supply the roots to the school. “I championed and created a need. It’s now time to satisfy this need. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to know that I am dealing with a crop that makes a difference in people’s life not only in health but also economically” he concludes.
TAAT is an initiative of the African Development Bank under its agricultural transformation agenda also known as the Feed Africa Strategy. TAAT is essentially a knowledge- and innovation-based response to the recognized need for scaling up proven technologies across Africa aiming to boost productivity, and to make Africa self-sufficient in key commodities. The OFSP Commodity Technology Delivery Compact (CTDC) includes a range of private sector partners and public-sector extension services to deliver technologies, training, and access to services to stakeholders along the OFSP value chain, from production to processing and marketing. CIP leads the OFSP CTDC in partnership with National Agricultural Research and Extension services (NARES) and will work with Farmers and farmer groups, vine multipliers, processors, non -governmental organisations (NGOs). The project is implemented in 12 countries in Africa.