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

As US Strikes Syria, China Sees Parallels at Home

Beijing is debating how much support to give international coalition against IS militants and trying to figure out how many Chinese nationals may have joined group overseas More

CDC: Ebola Could Infect 1.4 Million by January

US health officials say if efforts to curb the outbreak are not increased, cases will soar dramatically by early next year More

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in 5 Countries

US Agency for International Development partners with celebrities to call attention to importance of education for girls worldwide 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.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid