How Uganda’s school children became the keepers of the vine

Nov 7, 2018 by

In a nation where a majority relies on subsistence farming, improved crop strains can make a big difference. But getting fortified seedlings into the hands of farmers can require its own kind of revolutionary thinking.

By Christopher Bendana –

The sweet potato has always been an important crop in Uganda. But in recent years, the root vegetable has taken on heightened significance as a means of addressing malnutrition, food insecurity, and poverty. New strains of the crop, developed by Uganda’s National Crops Resources Research Institute, promise fortified nutritional value, increased drought tolerance, and higher yields. But spreading the word proved difficult. It was hard for government workers and sporadic volunteers to reach the nation’s small-scale farmers. So scientists at the research institute have recruited some unlikely ambassadors: local school children. The students learn to tend sweet potato vines in school before bringing them home to their families. In the first three years of the project, Ugandan school children distributed close to 22 million vines, increasing adoption by 10-fold over traditional methods of distribution. Farmers are hearing from someone they trust and who will be around throughout the growing season. “Whatever you tell children, they take the message to the parents,” says Grace Babirye, who is with a collaborating NGO. “[M]others listen to their children.”

Source: How Uganda’s school children became the keepers of the vine –

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