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3. Sweet potato post-harvest system


3.1. Production and consumption in Kenya
3.2. Production characteristics of sweet potato in the Kisii district
3.3. On-farm post-harvest operations for sweet potato in the Kisii district
3.4. Structure of the marketing system
3.5. Margins in the chain
3.6. Consumption patterns
3.7. On-farm processing of sweet potato


3.1. Production and consumption in Kenya

Sweet potato is an important secondary food crop for many Kenyans whose staple diet is based on cereals, particularly maize (Njeri Gakonyo, 1993). Previous work done by Mutuura et al. (1992) established that sweet potato is an important food security crop when maize is in short supply or in years of drought. Its cultivation in many parts of the country is enhanced by the ability to adapt to a wide range of climatic conditions including the marginal areas.

In addition, the ability of sweet potato to establish ground cover very fast enables suppression of weeds such as striga, control of soil erosion and maintenance of soil fertility. Therefore it is an attractive crop for Kenya's farming systems.

In Kenya sweet potato growing is mainly concentrated in western Kenya (including Kakamega, Bungoma, Busia former Homa Bay, Rachuonyo and Kisii districts). It is also grown to a small extent at the coast and in Central Province.

There has been a steady increase in the area planted with sweet potato from about 55,000 hectares in 1988 to about 65,000 hectares in 1996 (FAO 1997). Average yields are about 10 tons per hectare. Cultivation of some of the newly introduced varieties currently under testing by CIP/KARI could lead to higher yields. Average per capita consumption of sweet potato is about 24 kg per year with higher proportions consumed in the western parts of Kenya (Scott and Ewell, 1992).

In nutritional terms, sweet potato, particularly the yellow fleshed varieties are good sources of vitamins A (300 micrograms/100 grams, fresh weight) (Woolfe 1992). A comparison with other food crops shows that it yields more calories per unit area than either maize or potato and nearly as much as cassava, while its protein yield is far higher than the latter (see table 7).

Despite the clear potential of sweet potato in helping to meet Kenya's food needs, full exploitation is constrained by its bulkiness, perishability, high cost per unit sold, as well as low consumer acceptability. Consumers perceive it only as a snack and not as a food which can constitute the main part of a family's diet (Njeri Gakonyo 1993). This perception is a substantial barrier to increased sweet potato consumption and hence production.

Table 7: Nutritive value of maize compared to root and tuber crops

Crop

Yield, t/ha (average of 88 to 96)

Energy, KJ per 100 g fresh matter

Crude protein, g per 100 g fresh matter

Energy, MJ per ha

Crude protein, kg per ha

Maize

1.77

1570

10

27,800

177

Sweet potato

9.8

500

1.5

49,000

147

Potato

4.3

335

1.8

14,400

77

Cassava

8.1

630

1.0

51,000

81

Source: Rehm and Espig (1991), FAO (1997)

3.2. Production characteristics of sweet potato in the Kisii district

In the Kisii district, sweet potato is grown by about 60% of the households every year on small holder farms. Although traditionally regarded as a subsistence crop, sweet potato is increasingly being produced for commercial purposes. In the lower areas of the district, this trend was influenced by the marketing problems of coffee which was the major cash crop. Therefore, sweet potato was seen as an alternative cash crop. Sweet potato production has also been influenced by other factors, such as:

· new market outlets in urban centres,
· high cost of inputs for maize production as a cash crop,
· diminishing land sizes,
· high cost of living which has forced people to consume cheaper foods for certain meals.

This is evidenced by the steady increase in the area planted from 1,910 hectares in 1992 to 4,050 hectares in 1996 (DAO Kisii). Sweet potato is the most important cash crop in Mosocho, and Suneka divisions which are within 10 to 15 km from Kisii town. Increased commercialisation of the crop in the Marani and Nyamarambe divisions is limited by the poor communication and long distance to Kisii Town (DAO Kisii). The Kisii district has therefore become an important supplier of sweet potato to many urban markets including Nairobi and Mombasa and may be competing with the South Nyanza district which was earlier reported as the major producer of sweet potato (Ministry of Agriculture 1992). If per capita consumption in the village has remained constant and all increased production since 1992 is marketed, it would mean that over 120 tons per day of sweet potato is being traded in the Kisii district, or the equivalent of 10 to 11 seven-ton truckloads.

Sweet potato growing in the Mosocho division

Interviews with the farmers in the Mosocho division indicated that sweet potato ranks third as a food crop after maize and bananas indicating that the crop is grown more for commercial purposes than for home consumption. The most important variety grown is Enaironi³. This white skinned variety has desirable characteristics to both farmers and consumers. These include short maturity period (3 to 4 months), high yields, moderate stability after harvesting (up to 7 days) and an attractive yellow flesh. In some cases this variety receives higher prices than other varieties in the market (DOA Kisii). The major disadvantage of the variety especially if grown for home consumption is that its quality deteriorates very fast when left unharvested beyond 1 month after maturity.

Kanchwere is the second most important variety grown. The tuber has a red skin and yellow flesh and matures within 6 to 7 months after planting. After maturity the tubers can retain their quality for a further 3 to 6 months when left unharvested. This variety is therefore suitable for cultivation for home consumption where sequential or piece meal harvesting is desirable, in order to extend the supply of fresh potatoes. The variety is also suitable for marketing as it can store relatively well (up to 2 weeks) after harvesting.

Sweet potato cultivation is greatly facilitated by the areas sandy loam soil, and the abundant and almost continuous rainfall pattern. Farmers are therefore able to realise two to three crops per year. The crop is either planted as pure stand or relay cropped with Maize. The main planting months for both types of crops are shown Table 8.

Table 8: Growing seasons for sweet potato in Mosocho division


J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Pure

H

P

P


H

H


P

P



H

Relay

H

H



P

P



H



P

Key: P = Planting, H= Harvesting
Source: field survey

January and February are relatively dry months. Planting materials in the form of vines are usually obtained from the farmer's previous crops or occasionally from neighbours. Average farm sizes in Mosocho range from 3 to 4 acres with 0.5 to 1.5 acres (25 % of the land) under sweet potatoes. All farmers interviewed indicated planting on mounds as opposed to ridges. Reasons given for this preference were bigger tubers, easy weeding and the fact that most people are more acquainted with preparing mounds than ridges. At planting hired labour is sometimes employed to support family labour and both men, women and children participate. No fertilisers or chemicals are used. Weeding is done once and crop rotation is rare because of the small sized farms.

Sweet potato growing in the Marani division

Interviews with farmers in the Marani division showed that farm sizes range between 4.5 up to 30 acres, out of these, one eighth of the farm or on average about 0.5 of an acre was planted with sweet potatoes. Unlike the Mosocho division sweet potato is ranked low as a cash crop with groundnuts, coffee, maize and in some instances sorghum ranking higher. However as a food crop farmers ranked it second to maize. This implies that sweet potato in this area is mainly grown for home consumption than for sale. Popular varieties grown include Gikuyu, Nyakabondo, Nyakathuri and Obera. Some of these varieties have been obtained from the neighbouring Rachuonyo and Homa Bay districts. No fertiliser is applied at planting and occasionally sweet potato is rotated with Maize to help eradicate weeds, especially Striga weed. Sequential planting is done and the crop is always planted as pure stand, on mounds, flat ground or ridges. Farmers in hilly places prone to soil erosion tend to plant on ridges. Weeding is done once mainly by the female members of the family.

Table 9: Constraints to increased production for sweet potato

1) Moles and rats can destroy up to 10% of sweet potato crop especially in Marani.

2) Poor access to roads in Marani which discourage traders.

3) Lack of extension messages on agronomic packages and marketing prospects for the crop.

4) Limited land sizes.

5) Limited consumption of sweet potato due to its rating as a 'snack' food and not a staple food as well as the limited range of recipes.

6) Lack of credit to hire extra land, land properties and pay hired labour.

Source: Interviews with farmers

3.3. On-farm post-harvest operations for sweet potato in the Kisii district

Harvesting and grading

In the Mosocho division where sweet potato is grown mainly for sale, farmers harvest immediately the crop on maturity in order to plant the next crop. Very little in-ground storage is done. Harvesting is done after contacts with a suitable trader through agents. Good access roads enable the traders and agents to reach all the farms, most of which are within a few hundred meters of an access road.

Indicators of maturity of the crop used by farmers are cracks in the soil, flowering and age of the crop. Harvesting is done using hoes. Fork jembes have not been used despite their advantage in minimising tuber damage. Some farmers cut the herbage a day before harvesting to facilitate digging up of the tubers. Such herbage is either kept as planting material or fed to livestock. Farmers without livestock can sell it to their neighbours at 50 KSh per bag. Quantities harvested at any one time are usually 5 to 10 bags. Hired labour is usually utilised at harvesting to support family labour, at a cost of 70 KSh per person per day. One person can harvest 2 hags per day. Payment includes carrying of produce to the homestead and washing. Traders want clean produce despite the fact that washing reduces the shelf-life of the potato. Yields of the crop range from 30 to 40 hags per acre (weighing 130 - 140 kg each). Yields vary greatly from season to season and year to year.

Sorting of the tubers to remove damaged or rotten tubers in the presence of the agent is done by the farmers. Sorting is not strict because even cut potatoes may be selected for sale as long as they are big. Nylon bags provided by the trader are used as packaging material. Big and medium sized tubers are for sale in urban markets while the small ones are sold in local markets. They may also be used for home consumption or fed to livestock. Grading does not therefore result in losses as all grades are utilised. The proportion of big to small tubers varies with season and amount of rainfall. On average farmers estimated a ratio of 3:1 during a normal season.

In the Marani division, sequential or piece meal harvesting is done mainly by women members of the family using sticks. Harvesting is done when need arises for home consumption or for sale when petty cash is required. At the end of the harvesting period when land is required for another crop, the tubers are all dug up using hoes. No hired labour is utilised at harvesting as quantities harvested each time are small.

Sorting and grading is only done when the crop is to be marketed at the local Rioma market. Big and medium sized tubers are selected for sale and the rest left for home consumption or feeding to livestock.

When tubers are intended for sale to local traders or traders from Kisumu, who sometimes come to the area, harvesting is only done after agreeing on the quantity to be sold and the price. Both men and women participate in the harvesting. For this kind of sale sweet potatoes are neither graded nor washed. Leaving the tuber unwashed has advantages. It saves time for both the farmer and trader (who has to wait for the produce to be harvested), tubers can store for a longer period and they retain their red colour which is desired by some consumers. Due to the system of harvesting, it is not very easy to quantify tuber yields.

Table 10: Time from harvest to final retailer

Day 1

Harvest, wash, dry and bag

Day 2

Trader collects and dispatches to market to Nairobi

Day 3

Sell early a.m. to 1st level wholesaler sell wholesale

Day 4

Sell wholesale/retail

Day 6

Sell wholesale/retail

Day 7

Retail

* Losses are estimated by retailer at 3 to 5%, due to weevils and rotting. Sweet potato is more perishable in hot season;

* Note: if selling in Mombasa market another day for transportation must be added.

Source: field survey

As the crop is perishable - having a shelf life of 5 to 7 days, the trader buys the crop within 1 or 2 days of harvesting, to ensure it can last as long as possible in the final destination markets. The timescale between the harvest and arrival in the retail market is given in Table 10. Due to the perishable nature of sweet potato, more work is required regarding its storage, preferably in the potential for "above-the-ground storage".

3.4. Structure of the marketing system


3.4.1. Different market places
3.4.2. Actors in the market chain


This section looks at how the market structure has developed in Kisii District, describes the actors, the places they trade and the manner in which goods are prepared, dispatched and sold.

A number of systems have been identified in Kisii, which represent different levels of commercialisation and the degree to which farmers reach markets.

Figure 3 shows the options the farmer has to sell, and the links in the market chain. Farmers can store the crop in the ground, unharvested and await better prices in the future. Storing crop this way depends on the variety. Unharvested crop attracts pests and can result in losses to rodents such as moles. It also delays putting in another crop. There was little evidence of farmers using a "delayed harvest" tactic to exploit the market.

Farmers with small surpluses might sell to neighbours or in the local village; or sell by the bag and transport by head, bicycle or donkey selling in the local trading centre market; or if several bags, transport by matatu to sell in the regional market centre Kisii. The preferred system of sale was to agents in the village.

3.4.1. Different market places

Various marketing systems run in parallel, some with forward linkages from the villages, others with market wholesalers having backward linkages into the villages:

A. Village level retail markets - very small quantities are traded and sold in heaps. Usually supplied from small surpluses of farmers.

B. Local town markets within the district - usually supplied by farmer-traders who collect small supplies from farms. Trade is usually one to three bags per market day. Retailers in the bigger markets such as Kisii, may visit these town markets to buy supplies for their retail stall/shop.

C. Transhipment markets. Kisii and Ahero are the major transhipment markets for the big urban markets. Small lorries and pickups that ply up and down the main Kisumu - Kisii road will deposit produce at these points and the traders will then tranship to the main urban centres using larger trucks. Traders with small loads (30 to 40 bags) will co-operate to hire a truck together.

D. Final destination market. The principal final destination markets are the wholesale markets of Nairobi, Kisumu, Nakuru and Mombasa. Here goods are off-loaded and sold in the wholesale markets to secondary wholesalers and retailers. Note that these markets can also be transhipment points for other centres as well as a final market - notably Nairobi for Mombasa.

Figure 3: Post-Harvest Chain for Sweet Potato from Kisii

All these steps apply to the option of selling the sweet potatoes soon upon harvesting. However, the second option of adding value to the produce before marketing needs to be explored further to show the type of processing necessary to add a certain amount of value for increased profit. Current constraints to processing of sweet potato in relation to experiences from other countries will need to be investigated. In Kenya, experience in milling of millets/sorghum has shown that urban consumers were reluctant to consume the whole grain but with the availability of milled products, consumption is picking up. Further investigation is required in the area of non-traditional food recipes, taste, quality and attitudes in the case of sweet potato. The "Jua-Kali" sector is already making biscuits from sweet potato flour using basic technology; this is a fertile area for micro-financing initiatives. Consumer awareness is required in this area. Another area is the sorting of the potatoes into variable sizes resulting in standard weighted packs for targeted marketing.

In addition, this study has concentrated exclusively on human consumption of sweet potatoes. Perhaps because of this, the conclusions suggest a not very bright future for the crop. Experience from other countries suggests that the crop could be targeted equally or primarily to livestock production. For example, in Vietnam, the crop constitutes 70% of the feed for pigs. Additional possibilities include flour and other products. A detailed investigation is required to establish the potential of sweet potato as a major livestock feed.

3.4.2. Actors in the market chain

Village agent system

Where access is good and small lorries can be brought close to the farms, a system of agents has developed as in Mosocho and Suneka. These agents are usually farmers who contact other farmers and arrange for them to harvest, clean and bag the produce ready for collection at an assembly point near to the farmers home. The bags of sweet potato are collected on a regular schedule and the buyer pays the farmer direct and gives a fixed commission per bag to the agent. According to local farmers in Mosocho, this system developed around 1992, after a group of 10 farmers, who had been regularly selling sweet potato on the Kisii market to traders, asked them to buy at the village. It also coincides with the agricultural liberalisation of trade in Kenya (Lewa et al., 1995). In these areas sweet potato has become the major cash crop, occupying 25% or more of the farm area.

Trader-agents

Along the Kisii-Kisumu road, especially around the market towns of Oyugis, Ringa and Kabondo, a different system has developed where village level agents actually buy the produce from the farmers and make pre-arranged sales to the traders at main-road assembly points. They arrange transport from the farm to roadside by donkey carts or tricycle. Donkeys cost 50 KSh to carry one bag. Farmers best served by these village agents are the ones closest to the road. It was discovered in the Marani area, 10 km from the tarmac, that agents rarely frequented the farms. As a result, the area planted with sweet potato was mainly for home consumption, and was not considered a serious cash crop. Any surplus would either be processed or sold at the local village markets.

Local market only

In Homa Bay, trade appeared to be confined to the district, with small surpluses brought to local markets by farmers and sold in heaps. Market women traded in one or two bags per trip. Farmers were therefore reluctant to expand sweet potato production as market potential seemed limited.

The accessibility of the market greatly influences the production strategy of the farmers. Those with good access tend to plant a larger area, with fewer varieties.

Traders or middlemen (mainly women)

Those selling to the main towns, carrying more than 20 bags per trip, usually deal with agents. The traders meet the agents at the roadside assembly points. In Mosocho these assembly points were close to the farms in the villages, and farmers were paid direct. In the Oyugis-Kabondo road area, purchases were made from agents who assembled produce on assembly points along the tarmac road or in the towns. Traders dealing in smaller lots usually make direct contact with the farmers and arrange transport from the farm to the roadside themselves. In Nakuru, it was found that the two women wholesaling sweet potato there were buying direct from the farms.

Local transporters

In Mosocho, traders would hire a pickup or join together to hire a small lorry to buy crop in the village. Other traders buying from the assembly points on the Ahero-Kisii road would wait for a truck plying up and down the road.

Long-distance transporters

In Kisii and Ahero, large lorries will take crop on a share basis, or traders come together to charter a lorry. The trucks usually travel in the evening arriving in Nairobi late at night. The main destination markets for sweet potato are: Kisumu, Nakuru and Nairobi. Some is also transhipped directly to Mombasa.

Wholesalers

The traders travel on the overnight bus and meet the lorries parked up outside the market, early in the morning. The wholesale market starts from 4.00 am. The larger traders will sell by the bag to intermediary wholesalers, and try to leave the market by midday. Others will have an established position in the market and will sell over two or three days, both retail and wholesale.

Secondary wholesaler/retailers (mainly women)

The secondary wholesalers buy by the bag and sell their crop in "piles" displayed on mats. The size and value of the pile will differ depending on the supply and demand, but vary from 20 KSh sized piles to as low as 5 KSh piles.

3.5. Margins in the chain

The margins for a bag of sweet potato from Kisii in March 1997 are given below:

Table 11: Selling prices at different stages in the marketing chain

Level

Price per bag
Sweet potato

Price per kg

KSh per bag

KSh per kg

Farm gate

600 to 650


Roadside Assembly for Mombasa Mkt.

800


Kisii wholesale

800-900


Nairobi Wholesale

1,200

9-10

Nairobi 2nd wholesale


15-20

Nairobi Retail


30-40

Source: field survey

The retail margins appear relatively large, since PHS analysis is justified on the need to reduce transaction costs, it will be necessary to establish the causes of the contributory factors of the large margins and provide market information to educate both farmers and consumers on prices.

The margins for the sweet potato at each level of the chain from farmer to retailer are shown in table 12.

Table 12: Marketing Margins in Trading Sweet Potato (In Kenyan Shillings per bag)

SOURCE

KISII

KISII

KISII

DESTINATION

NAKURU

NAIROBI

MOMBASA

DISTANCE (kms)

208

361

1,209

Variety

Kalam Nyerere

Enaironi

Kalam Nyerere

Bag size/weight (kg)

120

120

130

RURAL LEVEL

Farm-gate price

600

650

600

Transport Vill to roadside assbly pt

50


50

Rural broker comm.


50

150

Price to Trader:

650

700

800

ASSEMBLY LEVEL




Trader buys... Bag

30

30

30

Local Transport




Vill to Kisii/Ahero

80

70

70

Loading/unloading costs

10


10

INTER-REGIONAL

Transport




Kisii to Nakuru/Nairobi

100

170

115

Nairobi to Mombasa



150

Loading/unloading costs

30

30

60

District Council tax on ag produce

7

7

7

DESTINATION MARKET COSTS

Market cess

10

20

10

Unloading cost

10

10

10

Market broker fee




Fixed Costs per bag

20

40

75

No of bags/trip:

20 bags

20 bags

20 bags

Total Costs

947

1.077

1.337

Wholesale selling price

1.100

1.200

1.600

Gross margin for trader/bag




Income per trip

153

123

263

GM as % of working capital

3.060

2.460

5.260


15%

11%

20%

Farmer level

The farmer receives about 600 to 650 KSh per hag (weight in kgs) at the farm gate.

Village level agent

In Mosocho, agents received 50 KSh per bag. Agents typically handled 20 hags once or twice per week, or 1,000 shillings for two days work. Agents buying from farmer for resale to appointed buyers at roadside assembly points had a mark up of 200 KSh. 50 KSh however had to cover transport costs from farm to roadside and the cost of repacking at the roadside into the correct sized bags.

Trader

Requires a capital of about 25,000 KSh to buy 20 bags per week. Each bag will cost the trader 926 KSh delivered to Nairobi market and an additional 4,000 KSh is required to advance to agents to pay deposits for the next purchase from farmers.

Transhipment costs: loading and unloading

At each transhipment point vehicles have to be loaded and unloaded, and established rates have to be paid. It costs usually 20 KSh per bag to load a vehicle and 10 KSh to unload but the payment is negotiable. Rough unloading can cause damage.

District Council Charges

Most districts collect a toll or cess on agricultural products moving on the roads. This usually comes to between 5 to 10 KSh per bag.

Market Fees

The town or municipal councils that run wholesale markets usually charge a fee from 10 KSh to 30 KSh per person selling in the market. In Nairobi, a fee of 20 KSh per hag is levied on goods being traded in or around the market. Some traders are able to dodge the paying of this fee.

Conclusions

The marketing system has responded to a small but significant increase in urban demand. The development of a more sophisticated regular village level buying system in Mosocho has helped stimulate production. This system might be extended to other areas, where roads permit.

The transhipment of goods in Kisii and Ahero may be dispensed with, if regular and speedy collection can be guaranteed to transporters in Kisii, who could then collect from the farms, as is happening in the Meru district with potatoes.

3.6. Consumption patterns

Sweet potato flour used to be consumed in large quantities in the 50's and some families made flour after drying the roots to make porridge mixed with sorghum of finger millet flour. With the introduction of maize, sweet potato became an inferior crop associated with poverty. The declining maize yields have made the sweet potato become popular again not only with poor households, but even urban households (see annex 4).

Sweet potato is not eaten everyday. Most households interviewed in the Mosocho and Marani Divisions indicated that they ate sweet potato once to four times a week, usually at breakfast or lunch. It is rarely served for supper. Larger quantities of the crop are consumed in months when maize is in short supply. The crop is more popular with women and children than with men, who do not consider it as a main food. The most common recipe is boiling peeled or unpeeled tubers which are then served with tea or milk. Boiled potatoes can store for 2 days and can be served cold. Lack of diversified methods of preparation of the crop make it less appealing to many consumers. In addition farmers interviewed cited problems such as heart burn, indigestion causing diarrhoea or constipation and flatulence to be associated with sweet potato consumption. A large portion of the sweet potatoes marketed are consumed in urban areas.

Table 13: Summary of production and post-harvest characteristics farms for commercial sweet potato production in comparison to home consumption

Home Consumption

Commercial

· Diversification of varieties grown with differing maturity periods and quality characteristics

· 1-2 varieties grown
· Varieties have to meet specific quality demanded by the market

· Sequential planting and piece meal harvesting as needed

· One time harvesting

· Limited plot sizes (rarely exceeding 0.5 acres)
· Land never rented purely for sweet potato production

· Plot sizes may exceed 0.5 acres and may be sometimes rented

· Limited male labour involvement

· Increased male and female labour involvement

· No hired labour utilised

· Hired labour often required for harvesting

· Rotation often practised

· Inadequate rotation

· In-ground storage practised

· No in-ground storage

· Limited on-farm processing

· No on-farm processing

Source: authors' compilation

According to a study by Alumira and Obara (1997) there is not much variation in tribal diet. Sweet potato is currently not a main staple in most diets of the Nairobi population. The researchers carried out a small survey asking 35 persons drawn from middle and low income groups in Nairobi, whether they were eating more or less sweet potato than five years ago. A slight majority of the respondents stated that less sweet potato was being eaten, due to changes to more "urban/modern type" foods. Sweet potato was highly preferred to cassava as a staple and was consumed by all household members, although women and children ate considerably more. It was mostly consumed in the boiled form and eaten at breakfast or as a snack. Little difference in consumption pattern was found between the middle and lower income groups. The main reason given for eating sweet potato was "that there was a lot on the market" followed by "the main staple was not available" (affordable).

3.7. On-farm processing of sweet potato

On-farm processing of sweet potato is rare in Kisii District. In cases where it is done (Marani Division) products made include flour which is mixed with sorghum to make porridge and mild alcoholic beverages from peeled, chopped, pounded and fermented sweet potato. Such processing is only done when the crop has been harvested and there are no other immediate uses for the produce. In many other areas of the district, flour production was popular in the 60's but was abandoned in favour of maize flour.

Experiences of sweet potato processing at village level in parts of South Nyanza, Kakamega and the Vihiga districts of western Kenya have been reported by Owuor (1996). A majority of the processors are members of women groups who have been trained on the processing technologies by the district home economists. One such group, The Allendu Women Group from Allendu location of the newly formed Rachonyo district was interviewed during this study. Since 1995, the group consisting of 20 members has been processing and marketing sweet products including chapati, mandazi, crisps, chips and cakes besides other group activities. Products are sold to the neighbouring schools during sports days or at the local markets. Consumers prefer sweet potato products to wheat flour products. This is in agreement with the findings of Owuor (1996) where 82.4% of consumers interviewed rated sweet potato products as being better than pure wheat flour products.

Processing by this group is limited to periods when potatoes are available (3 months in a year). Reliable information on the volume of sweet potato processed, output of products and profit margins for this group could not be established during this study. KARI/CIP are in the process of compiling a booklet on sweet potato recipes to be published shortly.

Table 14: Problems experienced by the women group affecting sweet potato processing

1) Lack of adequate sweet potato for processing especially during the dry season.

2) Limited prospects of sweet potato marketing.

3) Lack of capital to expand the business and invest in urban areas where there would be higher demand in their products.

4) Purchasing of sweet potato during dry season is expensive and would reduce the profit margin.

5) Poor keeping quality of sweet potato flour. It is easily attacked by weevils.

Source: Allendu Women's Group


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