Growing bio-fortified crops for better nutrition

Farmers in Rakai District marked a belated World Food Day on December 1 with particular emphasis on growing bio-fortified food crops to combat malnutrition.
The event took place at Lwankoni Sub-county. It was organised by Community Entrepreneurship and Development Organisation (Cedo), which coordinates production of bio-fortified beans and sweet potatoes in Kirumba, Kalisizo, Kabira, Lwankoni sub-counties in Rakai District and Buwunga and Bukakkata sub-counties in Masaka District.

For improved nutrition
At the function, there was an exhibition where farmers and farmers groups displayed sweet potatoes and beans they produce, products such as cakes and chapatis that are made out of sweet potato flour, as well as bananas and other food crops produced by organic farming methods.
“Since we are marking World Food Day, we also encouraged them to display any other food crops from their farms,” said Charles Katabalwa, the agricultural services extension coordinator at Cedo.

The bio-fortified sweet potatoes are enhanced with Vitamin A to boost nutritive value, while the beans are fused with zinc and iron and are especially recommended for pregnant women and children.
Fred Kanaabi, Cedo’s field agricultural extension officer, pointed out that the production of these crops has been going on since 2012.

However, for potato, it has often been disrupted by the Sweet Potato Virus Disease (SPVD), which destroyed 60-75 per cent of varieties such as Ejamula and Kakamega.
“It spreads faster during the rainy season and it cannot be cured,” he told Seeds of Gold.
Kanaabi also disclosed that Cedo now has varieties that are tolerant to SPVD such as Kabody Naspot 10, Vita Naspot 8 and Naspot 12, which are quite high yielding but are susceptible to drought.

He explains: “For that matter, we encourage farmers who live close to wetlands to practice irrigation. Many farmers are tempted to grow the potatoes in swampy areas, which is against environment regulations. Since the varieties cannot withstand drought, our farmers lose them and keep returning to us for seed vines. We have taught them to preserve the vines during long dry spells by planting them under tree shades where they can water them.”

All farmers who get seed for bio-fortified potatoes or beans are required to pay back twice the amount of seed they initially obtained before planting.
“If a farmer gets two kilogrammes of beans at the time of planting such a farmer is expected to pay back four kilograms,” he added.
Yasin Lutaaya, a research assistant at Cedo, who is also in charge of bean production, said that they are looking at marketing pre-cooked beans.

Make it cheaper
“The beans will first be taken to Kisumu in Kenya where they will be processed and packaged,” he said.
“We are also looking at the Kenyan market. But we hope that a facility will be set up in Mukono District, which will make pre-cooked beans cheaper for us in Uganda.”

Free time
To encourage production, Cedo enters into contracts with farmers at the time of planting to buy the beans at a set price.
“Our objective in producing pre-cooked beans is an alternative market for the beans. We also believe that pre-cooked beans will help reduce deforestation since they don’t require a lot of fuelwood to cook by the consumer. Pre-cooked beans will provide more free time to women to devote to other activities.”



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