Sweet potato growers benefit from CIP research

Troubled by frequent droughts and high temperatures that made growing maize more difficult, small farmers in Zimbabwe seized the opportunity to boost food security and tackle climate change with sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes have been improved using conventional breeding methods. The breeding process involves crossing different varieties of sweet potatoes with selected characteristics such as health benefits, taste, size, pest and disease resistance, and drought tolerance.

The International Potato Center (CIP), a global research organization based in Peru, has succeeded in producing new varieties of sweet potatoes. By using the accelerated breeding program, CIP has halved the time it takes to produce new varieties, cutting the process time from 8 or 10 years to just 5, according to Jan Low, senior scientist at CIP.

Since 2009, CIP’s research has produced 62 orange-fleshed varieties that have been marketed by 12 African countries, Low said.

In Zimbabwe, sweet potatoes have become a flagship product, especially among small farmers. Over a million smallholder farmers in the country produce around 420,000 tonnes of sweet potatoes per year.


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