Orange fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP) is expanding across much of East Africa, offering opportunities along the entire value chain.

In Siaya County in western Kenya, the Participatory Market Chain Approach (PMCA) identified opportunities that allowed the entire value chain to expand, benefitting women especially.

Seed multipliers, root producers and OFSP processors all faced the problem of raising capital to expand their businesses, while new entrants who wanted to join the OFSP business were also inhibited by lack of capital. Established financial services were unwilling to give loans to small producers, whom they deemed risky. But small producers were fearful of financial institutions and debt. To explore options, the entire value chain, including traders and transporters, was brought together in a series of thematic meetings.

Discussions revealed widespread desire to expand businesses with equally widespread discrimination on the part of financial institutions. In response, a local savings and credit cooperative, Siaya SEED SACCO, saw an opportunity to devise specific loans to support startups and expansion in OFSP production. Siaya SEED SACCO’s loan offering supports women by encouraging group guarantees, rather than requiring a husband to be the loan guarantor. Siaya SEED SACCO also trains women to manage their savings and investments within the group and to develop sound business plans.

Seed multipliers, root producers and OFSP processors all faced the problem of raising capital to expand their businesses. Photo by CIP

Loans from Siaya SEED SACCO have gone to different links in the value chain.

  • A youth group used a loan to get into OFSP production knowing, from the PMCA discussion groups, that there will be a market for the roots. Production will diversify their income stream and boost household food security.
  • A single woman who produces OFSP-enriched baked goods needed a refrigerator to store perishable products, a larger oven and a sealing machine for packaging in order to expand her business.
  • Another woman grows OFSP roots and also converts them into snacks that are increasingly popular in the schools around her village. She got a loan to plant an additional area to OFSP and is looking to acquire machinery to increase her production of the nutritious snacks.

Production of OFSP in Siaya County has bloomed over the past several years, supported by financial products designed with the help of PMCA. As sweetpotato is primarily a crop grown, processed and marketed by women, these products have been essential to help women overcome some of the barriers they face. Improved livelihoods have directly benefitted the women, and the greater availability of OFSP roots and products also contributes to improved nutrition in the community.

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Feature photo: Participants at an OFSP puree technology demonstration workshop, which demonstrated practical steps on processing diverse fried and baked products from sweetpotato. Photo by: N. Ronoh (CIP-SSA)
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