Sweet potatoes Farming transforming lives

Sweet potatoes Farming transforming lives

Josphat Mugo is a content man. He has become popular in Kerugoya sub-county because of sweet potatoes. He is fondly known as Mugo wa Ngwaci (Mugo who sells sweet potatoes)
He started planting sweet potatoes 10 years ago and he has unintentionally influenced many of his relatives and neighbors to also venture into sweet potato farming after they see how easy and rewarding it is.

He had previously tried he hands-on tomatoes but it was always a risky venture because he was never sure if he could harvest them and at what quantities.
This is when he switched to sweet potatoes and maize. He uses maize to fill the areas he hasn’t planted sweet potatoes.
To prepare the field for planting, Mugo uses a cow plow. He then creates raised ridges. He then plants the sweet potato vines at a spacing of 15cms on raised ridges.
He plans his planting time according to the rains. Sweet potatoes are planted twice a year with rain-fed farming. He plants the Bungoma variety of sweet potatoes which is red/pinkish on the outside and yellow/creamish inside.

The first season is in March and the second season is in October. The rains will go for a month and a half and after they subside, he irrigates the sweet potatoes from the nearby stream.
He uses a petro powered water pump to pump the water up a ridge and into the field. He has connected some 90 pipes from the river to the field. This main pipeline is shared amongst him and his neighbors as they pooled together to buy the pipes.
After planting, he sprays twice a month to clear pests that attack the vines and tubers. These pests get into the tubers and eat them from inside. The tubers will look beautiful on the outside but upon splitting them, you find patches inside where the pest has been.
Sweet potatoes take three and a half months to mature. Mr. Mugo will harvest 40 bags of sweet potatoes from a quarter acre. Each bag weighs about 70kgs. He sells the sweet potatoes at Kagio market which isn’t too far from Kutus town.
Each bag goes for between Kshs. 2,700-3,000. He has been paying college tuition fees for his second-born with proceeds from the sweet potatoes. He recalls a time when the student was requiring tuition fees to be paid and Mugo just dug up 10 bags of sweet potatoes and he called for a Tuk Tuk transporter and went to the market. Before long, he had sent tuition fees to the student.
He also sells for other farmers as he is conversant with the market dynamics. He also sells sweet potato vines to farmers who want to venture into farming. This he sells at Kshs. 500 per bag of seedlings. He also sells vines as cow feed after harvesting is done.
He has been doing so well that 3 years ago, some students accompanied by lecturers from Egerton University came to his farm to study the farming and they even took soil samples for testing.
He has also ventured into millet farming which he says is quite challenging. Millet is loved by birds and you thus have to set up a scarecrow and constantly have someone watching the millet field and scare away the birds otherwise you will harvest nothing. He was patrolling the millet field when we arrived at his home and he had to call some neighborhood boys to take his place so he could speak to us.

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