Why Is It So Important?
Malnutrition is a major problem in Malawi as the staple diet is nsima, a porridge made from cassava or maize flour, with little protein and very few vitamins. Although some white fleshed sweet potatoes are grown in our area, the higher yielding orange-fleshed sweet potatoes which are higher in Vitamin A and other nutrients are not grown in the north of Malawi. Farmers and smallholders cannot afford to purchase the vines needed to plant these improved varieties.
RIPPLE Africa want to support more farmers to grow new varieties of orange-fleshed sweet potatoes to improve local people’s diets. Farmers pass on vines to their neighbours increasing production at no extra cost. We are also educating householders in how to cook and use sweet potatoes in family meals to improve their nutritional value. In addition, RIPPLE Africa pre-school teachers provide a sweet potato meal for every child attending their preschools.
What We Have Achieved
The project builds on a current pilot project taking place which has already proved very successful. Last year, RIPPLE Africa were approached by CIP (The International Potato Center) who were funded to scale up the introduction of orange fleshed sweet potatoes into Malawi, which are higher yielding and contain higher levels of Vitamin A. CIP were looking for an NGO based in the north of Malawi to manage the distribution of the new sweet potato tubers to famers in the area who would then report on their success at growing these and highlight any issues.
RIPPLE Africa are currently being supplied with sweet potato tubers from a supplier called Nankhwali Farm. Nankhwali focuses on 5 orange fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) varieties: Chipika, Kadyaubwerere, Kaphulira, Mathuthu and Ana Akwanire.
RIPPLE Africa are currently working in partnership with the District Agriculture team to carry out a large scale distribution operation, giving bundles of vines to 3,000 farmers within 9 geographical areas of Nkhata Bay District. In each bundle there are 100 x 30cm tubers. The District Agriculture team are keen to expand this which is why it is working so well.
These new varieties are also being grown in all our preschools and by many farmers in Nkhata Bay District.
Farmers excited about receiving the vines
Ready to plant the vines at preschool
Sweet potatoes in preschool
Much more nutritious and lovely to eat
Surplus sweet potatoes can be sold at the market
These new sweet potatoes have been planted out at all our preschools
How We Work
The farmers start with 100 tubers each but when they harvest, they have enough stems to keep some for their family and to share the rest with other local families to multiply the number of people benefiting.
District Agriculture and RIPPLE Africa environmental staff monitor how well the potatoes grow, measure yields and assist farmers with the ongoing distribution of their surplus tubers.
The Project’s Future
We would like to secure additional supplies of the improved sweet potato vines and tubers to expand the reach of the programme for the next 12 months. The first planting will take place in January 2018 with the harvest expected in April or May. Once the sweet potato has been dug up, the stems will be kept together and watered to keep them alive, ready to re-plant them again the following January. As with the current trial, a second planting will take place in July in the lower lying and better irrigated lower areas nearer the lakeshore.
We are already seeing improved yields from these sweet potatoes and anticipate that this success will continue. Our target is to distribute tubers in January and July 2018 to an additional 3,000 farmers, doubling the reach of the current project.
Once harvested, each farmer will then pass on surplus tubers to 3 – 5 neighbours. This will potentially mean that up to 15,000 households will grow and eat the more nutritious varieties of sweet potatoes, significantly improving their diet.
RIPPLE Africa 2003 - 2019, Company No. 04823686 England, UK Registered Charity Nos. 1103256 (England & Wales) and SC043082 (Scotland)
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