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A recent trip to Western Uganda, about 350 km from Kampala with a group of agricultural scientists to interact with farmers who came to participate in harvesting GM Irish Potato yielded good results.

We encountered with a young student who is interested and already participating in commercial Irish farming.

The youthful farmer is Glorius Kyampire, 17, then a Senior Four student at Immaculate Heart Girls’ School Nyakibale in Rukungiri.

During the field tour, Kyampire spoke about her passion for farming which she said she developed right from childhood because her parents are peasant farmers who have been growing Irish Potatoes as food security and source income and livelihood.

Family background

Kyampire was born in Busirimuka village, Rubale Sub-county in Rubanda District in Western Uganda.

Her parents Francis Muhwezi and Boneconsily Tumwesigye gave birth to six children.

 “As the last born, my mother made sure she involved me in all aspects of the family farming activity. She taught me how to till the land, plant the Irish seeds, weeding up to harvesting,” she narrates.

Irish – food, commercial crop

Potato in Uganda is a food security crop and is grown in the highland areas of South Western Uganda notably Kabale and Kisoro districts as well as the mountain slopes in Eastern Uganda parts of Mbale and Sebei region.

For the communities living in this part of the country, the crop is considered both a staple food and main source of income.

Farmers engaged in growing it from the west contribute 60 per cent supply of the country’s produce while those from Eastern highlands of Uganda contribute 40 per cent.

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As a result of increased demand especially in the urban areas production has been intensified in the traditional zones and is spreading into central Uganda and other areas.

Achievements, inspirations

Since her parents are Irish potato farmers who grew the crop for food and commercial purposes, Kyampaire got attracted to the entire process?

“Most of my siblings dropped out of school after Senior Four and got married but I am determined to study and complete university  (so that she can become a professional agriculturalist),”  she noted.

Kyamire’s parents own six acres of land and they have allocated one acre for seed multiplication and four acres for potato farming. The other acre was given to Kyampire to grow Irish Potato.

This, she has been doing for the last two years after she was introduced to scientists at Kachwekano Zonal Agricultural Research and development Institute (KARZARDI).

During the first planting, she was able to harvest three bags. During subsequent seasons the volume varies between three bags and four bags, depending on the season.

The market price of Irish potato in the entire region is Shs180, 000 per bag weighing 100kg but when there is scarcity, farmers sell a bag at Shs250, 000.

Kyampire and her parents grow hybrid varieties which farmers can access from KaZARDI.

These are Naropot 1 – 4 which are known as Victoria varieties and Kachpot 1 and 2 with yield capacity of 7-8 tonnes per hectare.

“I follow the best agronomy practices. During the first rainy season in March, I planted Irish potatoes and harvested eight bags weighing 80 kg. I have tilled the land and waiting for rains to start planting,” she adds.

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She received the initial seed worth about Shs500, 000 per kilograme from KaZARDI’s Dr Abel Arinaitwe, who also encouraged her to take on Potato farming

“I am grateful to scientists at KaZARDI who have been breeding improved varieties of Irish potato that tolerate the late blight virus.

Her dream is to acquire more land in future and become a mixed farmer growing Apples and Irish Potato on large scale commercial basis.

Challenges

As a student Kyampire is faced with the challenge of concentrating onbooks and yet she has to pursue her career in her farm.  The bigger problem is that women in all households in the rural areas are the pillars in farming initiatives.

However, they own the land and so the proceeds are taken away by the men.

Three years ago, Food and Agriculture Organisation jointly with scientists from Makerere University and those from KARZARDI started a sensitisation exercise where the youth were sensitized to add value to Irish potato by making powder out of it for baking cakes, waffles, as well as processing crisps and many have embraced the technology.

Economic value of Potato

Dr Arinaitwe says 300,000 metric tons of potato are produced each year in Uganda. Farmers earn market prices between Shs2, 000 to Shs3, 000 per kilogramme or Shs5.5m -Shs7m per hectare depending on the season.

These impressive numbers, however do not reveal the growth potential for potato in Uganda. Farmers currently average seven metric tons per hectare but with improved varieties and best farming practices, they could produce up to 40 metric tons per hectare.

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