News / Africa

Researchers Seek to Show Kenyan Farmers Benefits of Potatoes Over Maize

Victor Otazu, a aeroponic specialist with the International Potato Center, tends to some aeroponic potato plants in Nairobi, Kenya
Victor Otazu, a aeroponic specialist with the International Potato Center, tends to some aeroponic potato plants in Nairobi, Kenya

Multimedia

TEXT SIZE - +

Kenyans love to eat maize. It's the country's favorite food. But researchers at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute are looking for ways to change that.

Is this what's in Kenya's future -- plants grown without soil, and in this case not maize, but the humble potato?

Researchers from the Peru-based International Potato Center and the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute are conducting experiments on harvesting seeds from potato plants grown using aeroponic technology.

Seeds are germinated in the laboratory. The seedlings are then fixed into holes cut out of Styrofoam sheets. And then after the seeds are developed further, they are harvested and distributed to farmers.

Soil often contains bacteria and other microorganisms harmful to potato plants. And seeds infected with viruses produce low potato yields.

"[With] aeroponic seed, we were able to produce 40 tons [of potatoes] per hectare," said Victor Otazu, a aeroponic specialist with the International Potato Center.  "Now, the farmers' seed only yields eight to 10 tons per hectare, so you can see the difference in yield production. If we are able to produce enough seed for all farmers we would be producing a lot of potatoes for Kenya."

Maize has been Kenya's staple crop for ages. The researchers say that potatoes grown from the superior seeds of aeroponic technology could replace maize as Kenya's staple crop, and help to protect the country from droughts.

"I think we have relied on maize for a long time, us Kenyans," explained
Researcher Miriam Mbiyu.  "Bear in mind that potato is a short crop, it runs only for three months, and maize runs for the shortest five months and others, eight months, seven months. So we are trying to encourage farmers to get into this, at least to boost up our economy."

Farmer Derek Roulston likes the idea.

"If you have difficulty in drought, generally you will harvest something from potatoes, and it is very unlikely that you would get a complete crop failure, whereas with maize, in the last few weeks of production is when most of the yield is produced and it is more I would say drought-prone than potato crops," noted Roulston.

But that might be a tough sell. For many Kenyans, their number one comfort food is a polenta-like dish called ugali, made from maize meal. Another favorite dish, a stew of maize and beans called githeri, is equally central to the Kenyan diet.

A quick survey on the streets of the capital Nairobi bears this out.

MAN1: "Normally I consume the normal food of an African - that is maize, githeri, beans, meat."
MAN2: "Myself, I consume maize. As you can see, I am very strong. So it is only maize.
WOMAN: "I consume ugali. Yes. I consume ugali, I consume githeri. I am a Kikuyu so you see, maize will always be part of my life."
MAN3: "Personally I have been thinking it is high time for Kenyans to change. Me, I come from Vihiga District where potatoes are gaining momentum. So many people are switching - so many people are planting potatoes."

The aeroponic experiments are expected to be concluded in a year. Researchers say they aim to set up aeroponic units in other parts of the country, and to urge farmers to grow more potatoes and Kenyans to eat them.

You May Like

Abuja Blast Impacts Lives, Livelihoods

Officials say they are looking at ways to help bombing victims and boosting security More

Cambodia Technology Adviser Criticizes Cybercrime Draft Law

Phu Leewood says current criminal code can be used to prosecute offenders and that there is no need for a separate law More

Photogallery A Year Later, Boston Remembers Deadly Marathon Bombings

City pauses to honor victims and salute emergency workers who came to their assistance in frantic moments after blasts More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid