Success is not always assured for many poultry farmers in Kenya. There are many reasons for this. Some enter into the venture without good knowledge of the right varieties to plant, the best time to plant or the local market conditions. There are some farmers who venture into sweet potato farming in Kenya without even knowing how to do the actual planting in itself. While it is good to take risks, blind risks can be costly. Here are some tips to keep in mind when you are planning to venture into sweet potato production in Kenya:-
Know the Right Varieties of Sweet Potato to Plant
There are three main types of sweet potatoes that are consumed in Kenya. These include the yellow fleshed and purple skinned sweet potato varieties, the white fleshed and white skinned sweet potato varieties and the orange fleshed sweet potato varieties. There is a small niche market for the white skinned and white fleshed variety of sweet potatoes. However, the one that is most consumed by the populace and which is also the most commercially viable is the yellow fleshed and purple skinned sweet potato variety shown below. Increasingly, the orange fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) variety is also gaining popularity. But if you are planning to grow your sweet potatoes for money, go for the yellow fleshed variety which is easily sold locally.
Procure Quality Sweet Potato Vines
The quality of vines that you plant can make a huge difference. Poor quality vines are going to lead to poor quality yields and subsequently, losses in your sweet potato venture. Choose sweet potato vines that are young and clean. Ideally, you should plant sweet potato vines that are two months old as these tend to be quite vigorous, clean, pest-free, wilt-free and disease free. They will therefore lead to bumper harvest.
Prepare land and mounds well
Land preparation will make a huge a difference in your success as a sweet potato farmer. As we have stated in previous posts, land should be prepared in advance before the onset of the rains to allow the weeds to dry and rot out during the dry seasons. However, the mounds should be prepared on the day of the planting or at least a few days before planting to allow for easy insertion of vines deep into the soil.
Planting the right way
When planting sweet potatoes, make sure that you space them correctly and that the vines are inserted deep into the mounds. The mounds should also be deep enough. Wrong planting techniques often lead to lower yields from your sweet potato farm.
Weeding on time
Weeds can significantly reduce the yields of your sweet potato harvest. It is, therefore, advisable to weed your sweet potatoes early on before they take root in the soil. Do it at 6-8 weeks and continue doing in case they re-emerge in the subsequent weeks.
Planting at the right time
If you plant early enough when other farmers are not planting, you will harvest your sweet potatoes when there is less supply in the market and you can therefore fetch very good market prices for a bag of sweet potatoes. Ideally, do it from October to December if there are good rains. But you can always plant your sweet potatoes at any time of the year as long as there are good rains.
Know your market
The main market for sweet potatoes in Kenya is in Nairobi and it is important to be in tune with the prevailing market prices so that you can harvest when the prices are higher. Price per 100Kg to 110Kg of sweet potatoes will generally vary from Ksh.5000 when there is a supply glut to Ksh.9000 when there is less supply.
Manage your costs
Managing sweet potato planting costs will generally lead to greater profitability in your sweet potato farming venture. Some of the costs that you should manage include land preparation costs, sweet potato vines procurement costs, planting and harvesting costs.