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

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

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory 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.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid