Victoria Mumo is a small-scale farmer from Kithimani village, Yatta subcounty, in Machakos county, who has learnt the art of adding value to her farm produce to make more money.

Adding value to orange-fleshed sweet potatoes and lemon grass, success story of Victoria Mumo

She adds value to orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, lemon grass, hibiscus, guard and mito (slenderleaf) seeds.

Mumo says by adding value to sweet potatoes, she is able to sell even when there is scarcity of the produce in the market, and at that time the prices are better.

She is also able to reach more consumers with her orange-fleshed sweet potato flour.

Mumo is a member of the Machakos Organic Farmers Cooperative Society and she is doing organic farming on her two acres land.

She says she has been a farmer for many years but she was not getting value for her money and she could not break even.

The farmer says the training and support she got from the Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN) has enabled her to make good money and this has opened other doors and opportunities for her.

Mumo says mito is a traditional vegetable that has many health benefits including helping to improve blood flow and cleansing, improve eye health, strengthens bones, nourishes the skin, boosts body immunity, used as a fodder, rich in nutrients, high in fibre and good for digestive problems.

She was one of the participants during African Women Agroecology Expo at Makerere University in Kampala in which women from Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe showcased different organic products.

Mumo says besides value addition putting more money into her pocket, the products are more nutritious.

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According to Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO), orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are one of the richest natural sources of beta carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body.

Vitamin A is critical to a healthy immune system, and low blood levels have been linked to reduced immunity.

Data from a situational analysis report on orange-fleshed sweet potatoes (OFSP) in Kenya shows that sweet potato is the sixth most important food crop after rice, wheat, Irish potatoes, maize and cassava in Kenya.

The area under its production grew from 20,181 hectares yielding 527,470 tonnes (valued at Sh4 billion) in 2009 to 22,989 hectares in 2011 yielding 1,000,267 tonnes valued at Sh7.6 billion.

The analysis shows that this scenario has been attributed to the use of improved cultivars and farming methods.

Mumo explains the process of making the flour, which includes ensuring that the seeds are of good quality and clean before planting for food safety.

“The crop is ready for harvest after three months. I then sort the sweet potatoes and weigh. They are then cleaned for two to three times as hygiene is key in this process,” Mumo says.

“After that they are cut and washed again with warm water. The material is then dried for one to two days depending on the sunshine, after that it is blended into flour.”

She says the flour can be used to make porridge, chapati or ugali but you have to mix it with maize or wheat flour to make your preferred food.

“For better results for your preferred choice of dish, take one tablespoon of the sweet potato flour against one cup of either maize or wheat flour,” she says.

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Mumo sells her produce locally or during agricultural expos, shows or conferences.

A 250gm packet of the orange-fleshed sweet potato flour sells at Sh200, 500gm at Sh400 and one kilo sells at Sh800.

Mumo also makes lemon grass powder which she recommends for making tea. A 250gm packet of lemon grass sells at Sh350, 500gm at Sh700 and 1kg at Sh1,400.

Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM) Association-Kenya country coordinator Rosinah Mbenya notes that agroecology offers a holistic approach to farming that respects the environment, promotes biodiversity, and ensures food sovereignty.

She says women play a crucial role in agroecology but their contributions to agroecological knowledge and practices, food security, nutrition and sustainable development is often under-appreciated.

Mbenya says there is a need to champion agroecological practices that prioritise sustainable and regenerative farming methods that minimise the use of synthetic chemicals, and emphasise the conservation of biodiversity within agroecological systems.

“As part of this commitment, we recognise the importance of empowering women in agroecology,” she says.

“We commit to providing them with the necessary resources, training, and support to actively participate in decision-making processes and take leadership roles in promoting agroecological practices,” Mbenya adds.

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