Urged on by rising urban demand, they started cultivating the crop more than 10 years ago and have never looked back. They realized that the rising demand was mainly due to the fact that potatoes were fast emerging as a substitute for staple crops such as maize, rice and wheat which largely depend on rain-fed agriculture.
About five years ago, in a bid promote potato farming, the government declared the crop a strategic and potential food security crop. “The rising demand is encouraging and this crop has greatly improved most households here”, said Mandikonza, who produces 15-20 tonnes on his one hectare plot.
Three potato varieties grow well here – the popular Irish potato, sweet potato and the edible ulei tuber (tsenza).
“Any of the three varieties, which can yield four times as many calories per hectare as rice or five times as many as wheat, enjoys a consumer success that has encouraged many farmers to start or increase its production,” said Masimba Zishiri, of the Department of Research and Specialist Services.
The Food and Agriculture Organization asserts that the growth in potato production on the African continent has been consistently higher than population growth. Where irrigation, fertilizer and good quality planting material are being used to grow potatoes on a commercial scale, yields of 25 tonnes per hectare (South Africa) and 18 tonnes per hectare (Zimbabwe) have been achieved.
However, the Farmers Development Trust based in Harare, notes that despite having generated a lot of interest, potato farming has been hampered by the non-availability of seed and chemical fertilizers. Power outages have also affected irrigation of the crop.
Some farmers outside the district have also lamented the fact that cheaper potato varieties are only found in Nyanga, which is far and transport costs are quite prohibitive.Post published in: News