24-09-2022 by redazione
In difficult times for essential commodities and subsistence food for the Kenyan population, especially the poor, maize is one of the most import-dependent items, which is almost paradoxical considering that it is the number one staple food for Kenyans, who make polenta (otherwise known as ugali) the most popular daily dish in the country.
Climate change, the difficulty of having two maize harvests per year and problems with pest control products have made local harvests insufficient for the growing demand for maize meal. For some years now, the government and many companies have started to import maize, even raw, from Russia and Ukraine, which, at the time of the blockade due to the war between the two countries, were the most important exporters to Kenya.
Another key partner, until recently, was Tanzania, which recently, however, blocked exports from its 'neighbours'.
These events are convincing many farmers to focus on alternative and no longer expensive flours, such as those made from the sweet potato.
The Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO), in collaboration with the International Potato Centre, has highlighted five promising sweet potato varieties and passed the know-how on to small farmers in Kenya.
Sweet potatoes are quite easy to grow, so already some farmers have realised the full potential of their sweet potato crop.
Sweet potatoes also have a growing period of three to a maximum of six months, so an average of three harvests per year.
The temperature and rainfall in the African country seems ideal: sweet potatoes are adaptable to different agro-ecological zones ranging from 0 to 2100m above sea level and are occasionally found at altitudes of around 2400m. They thrive at temperatures above 24°C in plenty of sunshine. They require precipitation of 750-1000mm per year.
Will families be able to accept the change from maize polenta, which together with the companion dish, ugali, forms the national dish, to that of sweet potato flour?
For now, the bulk of the market is for export, but Kenyans are beginning to come to terms with the sales and revenues from this new product-
When sweet potatoes are smaller, they have a lower price on the market, but growing them will put more money into farmers' pockets. The crop is rich in vitamin A, and is very healthy, beginning to be eaten as breakfast by most families, both urban and rural, instead of the classic porridge with white flour.
There are already those who market the mash, as well as using them for chips.
In short, Kenya's turn, not only in the fields but also in the kitchen, seems to be sweet.
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