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Makerere Breeds 20 High yielding, Drought and Disease tolerant Sweet potato varieties code-named Kabanyolo Sweet Potatoes (KSP)

  • Scientists call for a policy on seed systems to curb the spread of crop pests and diseases.
  • District NAADS officer appeals to farmers? mindset change and adoption new technologies.
  • Farmers eye Tallow oil industry as potential market, want low interest loans and technical support to expand farmlands for sweet potato production.

Makerere University Department of Agricultural Production has bred new sweet potato varieties that are high yielding, tolerant to drought and sweet potato viruses. The varieties were unveiled in Gorooba village, Buraru parish, Byabigambire? subcounty in Hoima district during an open day for? participatory variety evaluation? for farmers to choose what they think was the best variety for them based on yield and colour on November 1st 2013.

The different varieties after harvesting in Hoima

 Over 20 sweet potato elite varieties developed at Makerere University?s Research Institute Kabanyolo? named Kabanyolo Sweet Potatoes (KSP) were supplied to a group of 30 farmers called ? Ageteraine? chaired by Mr. Mugisa Geofrey who provided land where the varieties were put under three blocks.? Other lines from Namulonge (NASPOT) and? local varieties (Dimbuka and Semanda) were also given to farmers for performance evaluation.

The three blocks of the trial site offered by chairman Agateraine Farmers Group Geofey Mugisa

The three year project was funded under the Regional Collaborative Programs of the Swedish International Development Aid (SIDA). The project involves Makerere University, Namulonge Agricultural Research Station, KAZARDI in Kabale, Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), Mikocheni Agricultural Institute (Tanzania), University of Addis-Ababa (Ethiopia) and Rwanda Agricultural Research Board.

The Principal Investigator Makerere University who is also the Regional Coordinator for Eastern Africa Prof. Samuel Kyamanywa said Makerere has received about 300,000 USD over the three years and about 1,000,000 USD for the region for the project ?which should be ending in December 2013 but because of problems of fund disbursement from donars, they have allowed a no cost project extension till June 2014.

Principal Investigator Prof. Samuel Kyamanya (Middle holding potatoes and co investigator Dr. Setumba Mukasa (R) during the open day in Hoima

This was a big project looking at three crops cassava, sweet potatoes and potatoes. The overall objective was to come up with new technologies for producing these crops under the climate changing environment?? by looking at varieties that ?are not only high yielding but also resilient to? different environmental conditions like drought, too much water and diseases?, Mak. Professor Samuel Kyamanywa stated.

The other objectives according to Prof. Kyamanywa ?were to develop a system that would be able to deliver clean planting materials for these vegetatively grown crops and to see if the process of delivering seed materials to farmers? can be? institutionalised so that only registered people whose job is to produce planting materials, are monitored by the ministry.

?We have got new varieties for the sweet potatoes which will be released. We got drought tolerant cassava variety which we can use for breeding program; we have got the diagnostic tools to test for viruses of sweet potatoes and we have also developed protocols for tissue culture production of sweet potatoes and trained a number of Masters Students under the capacity building program?, the Prof. Kyamanywa added.

Prof. Kyamanywa further said the university was piloting that system by partnering with a Biotechnology private company (Bio crop) to produce clean planting materials from Tissue culture laboratory in Makerere, then give the clean planting material to this company to multiply the vines under their conditions, give to distributors who eventually distribute to the farmers.

He observed that one of the biggest challenges was that? the varieties bred were very high yielding and if famers adopt using them, there will be an over production of sweet potatoes and cassava requiring different stakeholders to think about how to process and create new products and markets besides just eating.

Another big challenge he said was the institutionalisation of the seed delivery system in the country to curb the spread of pests and disease, ?What we hope to do is to dialogue with government and policy makers so that they put policies in place to protect farmers. Right now they buy seed materials without knowing whether they are taking viruses or fungi.? Prof. Kyamanywa said.

The NAADS Coordinator Byabigambire Sub county Mr. Onyuta David described the projects participatory nature of farmers, NAADS and NARO as a brilliant idea that will enhance farmers acceptability of new technologies. ?Farmers have had? hands on experience unlike the past when we had challenges of convincing them to take on new varieties and am sure they have appreciated and will convince more to come on board?, Mr. Onyuta said.

Byabigambire NAADS Coordinator Onyuta David(top holding and admiring the KSP 12-12 variety)

Mr. Onyuta described the projects experimentation in Byabigambire ?sub county as a unique opportunity?? that should be replicated in other sub counties in Hoima and other districts.

He said cassava, sweet potato, beans, bananas , groundnuts and coffee growing? were the main source of livelihoods? in the area but were increasing hampered by diseases and pests such as? sweet potato weevils, Ground nut rosette, bean flies, banana bacterial wilt, cassava brown streak? and the newly discovered coffee stem borer. Other challenges he said were lack of market for the produce and the farmer?s negative mindset to adopt new technologies.

Mindset and refusal to change with the changing environment is a big challenge. Many of our farmers have rigid minds, stuck to the old varieties and always complain about the new varieties and do not want to accept new climatic changes and its related impacts on farming, Said the NAADS coordinator.

Mr. Onyuta also said the advisory body has organised workshops to train farmers on good agronomic practices, but more than often, the turn up for such meetings has been low mainly because farmers were more interested in material rather than advisory services. Other interventions were encouraging farmer groups to market their produce in bulk, making linkages with large scale buyers and distribution of improved varieties from agricultural and research institutes for multiplication.

Makerere university Graduate Assistant conducting the study on sweet potato breeding for drought, disease and other stress tolerance Anthony Mwijje hailed farmers for their cooperation during the trials, They did not give me any stress in management because they were interested and they told me that the local varieties they were planting were no longer marketable so they wanted new ideas on how to plant them.

Mwijje said the 20 varieties will be narrowed down for selection to five in another advanced trial in the next season for recommendation to the Variety Release Committee.

Graduate Assistant Anthony Mwijje(Top) describes KSP 12-03 as one of the top target variety

I am excited in the role of plant breeding in our food systems here when we see sweet potatoes as number three in the country's per capita consumption and recently with the upheaval in the diseases in cassava and bananas, sweet potato is giving us a good cushion to hunger. So I really see that farmers interest in our new clones exciting me as a breeder and am very confident that we shall have elite varieties which will put our name and that of Makerere on the map.

Dr. Mukasa Sentumba (R) recording of the number of farmers voting for KSP 12-01 as their best variety based on colour and yield

The day's activities were marked by the farmers' choice of what they thought as the best variety based on yield and colour. The farmers' top choices included KSP 12 03 competing with the popular variety from Namulonge (NASPOT 1). They were also interested in KSP 12 01, then KSP 12 12 and KSP 11 02 as their good material scampering to go with vines.

Researchers were optimistic that by mid next year the varieties committee will release at least five new Kabanyolo Sweet Potato varieties with good tubers and vines to help address the problem of accessing planting materials, contribute to food security and improve household incomes.

The chairperson Ageteraine Farmers Group Mugisa Geofrey hailed Makerere University for bringing the improved varieties saying, these will contribute to the nutritional security and marketability of their produce, We have been having problems with our local sweet potatoes that are susceptible to diseases and pests and we appeal to the university to continue working with us to help us with better varieties for other crops like cassava, beans and ground nuts, the chairman Ageteraine Farmers group appealed.

 Farmers taking some of the prefered sweet potato vines

The NAADS Extension officer Byabigambire Sub county Mr. Walter Wesigeomu said besides Makerere University, the group has also ?partnered with other institutions in the district like the Hoima District Farmers Association(HODFA) through which they sell their potatoes to Tallow Oil Company in addition to NAADS which has encouraged them to plant improved varieties and to practice good farming methods to enhance production, food security and incomes.

Mr. Wesigeomu also said farmers have been able to appreciate that the varieties yield high and agreed to continue with multiplication of the provided vines in the coming season.


The extension officer however decried the low investment capital for the farmers in spite of having huge chunks of land and appealed to government and other organisations to avail them with low interest loans or grants to expand their farm land, purchase farm inputs to boost the potato production for the upcoming oil industry in the district.


Report compiled by

Jane Anyango

Communication officer - CAES





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