Sweet potato farmers in the Nyambene Region of Kenya’s Meru County had high hopes for their produce when a sweet potatoes value chain development project was implemented by the National Draught Management Authority (NDMA) with financial support from the European Union. This was launched on March 28, 2018 by the Meru county governor, Kiraitu Murungi.
To achieve a sustainable livelihood from the project, the sweet potato farmers pooled their resources by forming the Meru Friends Sacco and with support from NDMA started a processing plant. The plant makes eleven products from orange fleshed sweet potatoes. The factory products comprise of bread, bans, crisps and other types of sweet cakes which are then distributed to the nine sub counties of Meru County.
The orange fleshed sweet potatoes are drought resistant crops which can be inter cropped with miraa which is the chief cash crop from the region. In addition the crop is ready for the market throughout the year hence ensuring constant supply to the factory.
However, with the coronavirus pandemic the management of the plant has faced several challenges that are negatively trickling down to the sweet potato farmers who had started to reap from the food chain development project.
“We are faced with difficulties in marketing due to movement restrictions brought by the COVID-19 curfews and social distancing that translate into poor sales,” Ms. Gakii explained, adding that the company has also laid off some workers due to low revenue.