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 On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

Nigerians Await New President With High Hopes

When pomp and circumstance of inauguration end in Abuja, Buhari will sit down to the hard task of governing Nigeria More

India's Restrictions on Several NGOs Raise Concerns

Political analysts link recent clampdown on advocacy groups to report last year that said foreign-funded NGO’s negatively impact economic development 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.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs