FARMERS have been advised to cultivate orange fleshed sweet potatoes which apart from health benefits, will improve food security and generate income for their improved living standards.
The potatoes have enormous health benefits including its ability to help gain weight and boost immunity.
Research Officer from the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resource, Livestock and Fisheries in Zanzibar, Mr Haji Saleh said orange fleshed sweet potatoes are not only agricultural crops but also commercial crops.
“Recently in Zanzibar orange fleshed sweet potatoes seeds have been used by many farmers and cultivated in various areas because it is commercial crop and source of income,” he said in Dar es Salaam.
He made the remarks about the research they conducted on the development of orange fleshed sweet potatoes which was funded by The Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH).
The study was conducted for three years, and was done in seven areas of Pemba and Unguja islands which included groups of farmers and students in schools.
He said their objective is to reach targeted orange fleshed sweet potatoes farmers and other stakeholders. Some orange fleshed sweet potatoes seeds yield up to 16 tonnes per hectare.
In the first phase 4,420 farmers have benefited from this project.
The project was involved in the dissemination of information on orange fleshed sweet potatoes for farmers through practical and theoretical practices such as various exhibitions including field farms.
"We also involve training for farmers and our beneficiaries as students of the primary school through ‘shamba darasa’ to be more sustainable."
Mr Salehe added that areas such as Dongwe in Unguja and Micheweni district in Pemba region the potatoes are widely cultivated and farmers export from the islands to the mainland Tanzania.
“In this project we found in Zanzibar there are good seeds of orange fleshed sweet potatoes which are resistant to diseases and pests,” he mentioned.
The sweet potatoes are very important to the community because are good source of vitamin A that can improve the nutritional status of people and helps prevent Vitamin A deficiency.
According to him, among the challenges in the project was that most famers were unfamiliar with the crop and it takes time to convince them but after seeing it in practice and the benefits, they developed huge interests.
Mr Saleh called upon the farmers and other agriculture stakeholders to use this opportunity of cultivating the sweet potatoes as they are good and most farmers have benefited from it and raised their living standard.
The project is important for policy makers and government in general as now the Zanzibar agricultural policy encourages the development of orange fleshed sweet potatoes as a commercial crop.
He added that this can be done through provision of education in various areas as it can raise the income for individuals and the nation as a whole.
Previously sweet potatoes were only produced by small-scale farmers and mostly women who produce primarily for home consumption.