Describe your implementation:
* Main activities included base line survey to access the status of sweet potato production within Zimbabwe. Findings showed a general loss of germplasm due to poor performance which initiated
the collection of germplasm from farmers. Germplasm was characterized and improved through tissue culture techniques. The germplasm is currently being maintained/preserved at the Institute. Cleaned planting material is bulked through rapid multiplication for sale to farmers at subsidized prices. Awareness programs have been raised through demonstration plots, exhibitions at field days and green shows and national agricultural shows. Farmers have been trained on sustainable production. Information dissemination is being done through pamphlets, fact sheets, and live broadcasts. * We ensured that our solution was adopted through engaging the communities at project conception and through regular monitoring and evaluation. The communities own the project and are eager to see its success. * Conditions have been enabling because the planting material prices were subsidized by the government. Favorable policies on starch and other carbohydrates in staple diet have promoted the production and consumption of tuber crops e.g. sweet potato, irish potato and taro to complement maize meal, which is in short supply. * Our success benefits from the condition that sweet potato is adaptable to a wide range of environmental conditions. We have seen about 70% from 15% of the farmers venturing in the commercialsation of sweet potato also realizing significant yields from as low as 5t/ha to 30-40t/ha. The decentralization of nurseries has made planting material within reach. * The lack of a formal market for sweet potatoes is challenging making farmers skeptical about commercializing the crop. Some farmers do not readily accept the use of Biotechnology techniques in agriculture. This was overcome by intensive training programs on demystifying science of biotech and sweet potato value chains.
We are working with local NGOs such as the Biotechnology Trust of Zimbabwe and World Vision, National Biotechnology Authority of Zimbabwe, Tobacco Research Board, Food and Agricultural Organization, Extension division and local Universities. Our efforts connects closely with the health sector especially when we promote the orange fleshed varieties which are high in beta carotene. The livestock sector is also deriving direct benefits of livestock feed from sweet potato leaves and by products. The efforts are a direct contribution to the country as it promotes the food and nutrition cluster as outlined in the national document, ZIMASSET blueprint. The sweet potato also features in the country’s food and nutrition policy set in 2013. The increased yields in sweet potatoes also improves the farmer’s livelihoods through increased incomes.