It was then that Joweria Namubiru, now the chairperson of Bagya Basaaga Potato growers and Processors was introduced to the nutritious sweet potato variety as an important strategy to improve vitamin A deficiency among the children.
Orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) is rich in vitamin A and was introduced to Uganda in 2007 by HarvestPlus, a part of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health.
Vitamin A deficiency is a significant health concern in the country, impacting 38 percent of children age 6 months to 59 months and 36 percent of women age 15 to 49 years, according to the 2011 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey.
“We learnt how to grow and cater for the potatoes and by 2011, measles had become history in our Village”.
From then onwards, Namubiru and her group started supplying orange potatoes beyond Bombo Village and also conserve and distribute potato vines to other farmers. The group also started adding value to the potatoes by producing potato juice, flour, bread and cakes among others.
However, as they expanded, they faced a challenge in quality control, standards and packaging which made them less competitive and confining their products to only the Luweero market.
“Despite the nutritious and health value in our sweet potato products, they had a small market due to poor packaging and standards.” Says Namubiru.
After learning of this challenge faced by the sweet potato group, EASSI enlisted them as one of the groups to undergo training on standards, packaging and quality control.
“EASSI trained us on packaging and standards and as a result, our products are better and this has helped expand our market. Our only challenge now is the lack of dryers which limits our productivity especially in the rainy season.”
Joweria adds that “Before we started growing orange sweet potatoes, there was no electricity on this village, but from the sales of our sweet potato and its products, we were able to bring electricity, build houses and pay school fees for our children. We earn more from the potato vines, for example in the season of August to October, we sold 1310 bags of potato vines at 10,000/= Uganda Shillings each, making a total of 10,310,000 million shillings. We share the money amongst the group members.” Says Joweria.
Besides Bagya Basaaga Women’s Group, other groups such as Merisa beverages, the Luweero Women’s Multi-Purpose cooperative Society Limited (LUWOMCO) and Kwewaayo women’s group have greatly benefited from standards and packaging trainings and mentoring under the WEJ Project. As a result, there are increased sales and benefits.
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