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Murang’a farmer finds fortune in rare sweet potato varieties

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It is harvest time at Wambui Kiragu sweet potato farm when we visit. Wambui, popularly known as Sara Murimi, grows premium orange and purplefleshed sweet potatoes in a two-acre family farm in Mugumo-ini, Kirimiri sublocation of Maragua, Murang’a county.

Her farming journey started right after she completed her university studies in 2014, when she began growing onions and capsicum, then ventured into paw paw and water melon business.

However, the learning curve was steep as she had underrated some factors, such as consistent availability of water, the cost and quality of labour and security. As a result, she lost a whole crop of onions when her water pump broke down and her water melon field was cleared by thieves a night before harvesting.

As a ‘telephone-farmer’ (farmers who remotely run the farm via the telephone), her farm manager would also connive with agrovet shops to inflate prices and volume of inputs. Tired of all these challenges, she decided to take a break to reflect. “When I ventured into farming I had big dreams.

But I wish I knew better. I wouldn’t have started with the so-called high value crops. I would have chosen a crop, such as sweet potatoes, which allows one to learn at a fair pace before upgrading,” recounts Wambui.

She tried her luck in the farm again two years later, but this time round, she settled on sweet potatoes, which are not labour intensive and don’t require a lot of farm inputs and water, have distinct harvesting time and good market value. She went for the orange-fleshed variety know for its nutrious value.

This variety is packed with betacarotene, an important vitamin good for eyesight and the purplefleshed variety that has anti-cancer nutrient called anthocyanin.

Rare varieties

“I did extensive research on these two varieties and I could clearly see their untapped potential.

I also realised that the two varieties were not widely available thus making them more expensive compared with other varieties,” she recounts.

Her next step was to visit the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) for her seedlings as well as advise on the agronomy of growing sweet potatoes. KEPHIS runs a tissue culture lab of sweet potatoes to ensure that farmers get clean and disease-free planting materials. And the plant didn’t disappoint. Three and half months later, it was ready for harvesting. At first she had challenges marketing the orange-fleshed sweet potatoes because her customers, mainly her neighbours would over-cook them and then report that they were soggy, impacting her sales. She had to introduce cooking lessons to them and since then the business is growing, leading to another challenge!

The capacity to meet the quality and quantity requirements. “On quantity, I am still unable to provide consistent volumes to meet the demands of my regular clients, but am working hard to expand the farm since the demand is there,” she says. And to ensure she minimises on postharvest losses, she says that she harvests her produce once the leaves and end of the vines start turning yellow because if sweet potatoes overstay in the soil, they can be attacked by weevils, which make grooves on the tubers thus lowering their market quality.

Apart from that, if the tuber overstays in the soil, they also become too big, which is not desirable by the market.

Online marketting

Wambui says that her biggest clientele are her neighbours in Nairobi, whe she lives and works as aresearcher in urban food systems. She markets the potatos through their neighborhood resident association’s WhatsApp group and also sells through social media platforms, the likes of Digital Farmers Kenya.

She has also linked up with a trader who arranges home grocery deliveries and picks 100kgs every week. She is currently trying to link up with restaurants as they slowly start picking up from the impacts of Covid-19. Wambui, who graduated with an environmental studies degree and has a broad experience in sustainable agriculture, says that her plan is to go into processing and provide a market for farmers. And to ensure this is a success, especially when it comes to quantity, she has started distributing vines to her neighbours in Kirimiri SubLocation for free.

She also sells the vines at a nominal fee and so far, she has a network of farmers in

over 25 counties who have bought and are planting the purple-fleshed variety. “With the new craze of no-wheat diet, I want to make a difference in people’s diet as they try to cut on wheat consumption and go back to traditional foods. I wish that every farming household grows these nutritious varieties of sweet potatoes.

In providing a market, I will be able to make a difference in women farmers lives.” To her orange-fleshed sweet potatoes fetches a better market because it can be used in different recipes.

Apart from the normal way of boiling and eating, it can also be used to make chapati, mandazi, doughnuts, chips, crisps among other meals. For the purplefleshed variety, the brillant colour and health benefits command a higher price, opening a potentially profitable niche market.

Her advise to anyone wishing to venture into farming is that they should carefully choose their learning curve.

“Do not start with the so-called high value crops because chances of starting with failure are high. Sweet potatoes allow you to learn more than the actual agronomy of a crop, for instance, labor management, marketing and so on,” she offers
THE GENESIS

• Wambui comes from a family with a farming background. She owes her success in farming to her supportive parents.

• Her father is an agricultural economist and guides her to think more about gross margins than hobby farming.

• Wambui is a telephone farmer and works on part-time basis as a researcher in urban food systems.

• She is an environmental studies graduate.
• She sells the sweet potatoes at Sh100 per kg and the vines at Sh10 per vine.

By PD.co.ke


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Lifestyle

Lady recounts pain of learning her HIV positive status in front of her new boyfriend

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Being in a new relationship nowadays requires couples to know their status before engaging in sexual orientation. This is a healthy norm due to many diseases that come as a result of sexual intimacy.

Lady says she learnt of her HIV status on her visit to the health facility with her new boyfriend 10 years ago

Irene Waliula (pictured) has been battling with HIV/AIDS for the last 10 years. Photo: Irene Waliaula.
Source: Facebook

As the world celebrates HIV and AIDS Day, Irene Waliaula 28, narrated her 10-year journey battling with AIDs, disease that changed her to a toxic person.

Hell broke loose on her when she visited a Nairobi health facility together with her boyfriend to know their HIV status after getting into a new relationship.

She was diagnosed with the dreaded virus and was left heartbroken, dejected and distressed.

On two occasions, the then 18-year-old girl contemplated suicide.

Were it not for the intervention of an AIDS councillor who guided and assisted her to start seeing things positively, Irene said she would have taken her on life along the way since the temptation kept on knocking.

Though the journey has not been easy considering the costs of medication and sustaining a healthy diet, the mother of one said having a positive mind has helped her to overcome a lot of the challenges.

Lady says she learnt of her HIV status on her visit to the health facility with her new boyfriend 10 years ago

Irene Waliaula. Photo: Irene Waliaula.
Source: Facebook

She has been sensitising the society and especially the youth on HIV and AIDS prevention measures through her social media platforms and other avenues including, churches, seminars and town hall meetings.

“When you first contract this disease, you obviously need strong people around you. For my case, I did not have such people around me. It was only my mother who was there for me. Though she was shocked, she had to be strong for me.” She recalled.

Irene said even though she no longer stays with her baby daddy. Her life has really changed because she chose to have people with positive minds around her.

She advised those living with AIDs to always focus on the best thing that life has to offer because after all, everyone deserves to live.

by Tuko.co.le


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‘I thought she would marry ‘Jesus’ not a divorcee,’ Pastor Kanyari shades Betty Bayo

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Pastor Victor Kanyari has broken his silence after his ex-wife Gospel singer Betty Bayo got engaged during her 33rd birthday last week on Wednesday.

Sharing the news with her fans on social media, the Eleventh Hour crooner posted a cutout picture of her fiancé on one knee putting the engagement ring on her finger with the caption, ‘Taken’.

Speaking to Word Is, the controversial pastor said he is aware that the mother of his two children got engaged but was shocked to learn that the man she is currently dating is a divorcee.

“I thought she was going to marry ‘Jesus’ after all the hateful things she said about me,” he said.

“He is a man who left his family, a wife and two children somewhere. She did not look for Jesus, tell her to marry a ‘Jesus’ kind of a man so she can surprise us not a man who has been used somewhere.”

Kanyari hopes that his children will be well taken care of.

“I have given my children the best life and I promise to take them to the best schools in America. Now that there is another man in her life, I hope he will be chipping in.”

Betty is now planning for a grand wedding and Pastor Kanyari said he is invited.

“I can’t attend her wedding although I am invited. She should continue with her life.”

“I came before him and at least opened some way for him. He can continue with where I left although there were others before me.”

Asked how well he knows Betty’s new bae, Pastor Kanyari referred to him as a broke man.

“He is from Central Kenya, but can’t compete with my level. He is a hungry man, that is the best way I can describe him. I can buy them lunch only that they have not shown up.”

He continued and said that instead of attending to the wedding, he will offer to pay for their honeymoon.

“Hii ni mbio ya farasi na punda. I do not know why she has rushed things since I did not expect her to be with that kind of a man. I expected a different kind of man. I am cuter…”

On the other side, Kanyari says Betty is still his friend and they call each other.

“She calls me anytime she is in a problem or is stressed. I wish her well and we shall meet at the end of all these.”

Pastor Kanyari says he has no hurry in moving on.

Word Is reached out to Betty Bayo who asked us to do a congratulatory story first, which we did.

She then declined to speak anything concerning her engagement.

“I am not ready to speak about it now.”

by Mpasho.co.ke


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Lifestyle

Rapper Msupa S on US tour, residing in Virginia

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All the Way Up star Sandra ‘Msupa S’ Chebet is in the state of Virginia, United States of America (USA) for a much-needed break after living out an exhilarating, roller-coaster rap career.

The self-styled hip-hop queen, famed for Hello, Utatii and Watajua Hawajui hit featuring award-winning rapper Khaligraph Jones, has since September 2020 treated her fans to a heaven-on-earth glow of life in the East Coast including a tour of Sterling, Loudoun County.

Msupa S [Photo: Instagram @queenmsupas]
Msupa S [Photo: Instagram @queenmsupas]
Msupa S [Photo: Instagram @queenmsupas]
Msupa S [Photo: Instagram @queenmsupas]
Msupa S [Photo: Instagram @queenmsupas]
Msupa S [Photo: Instagram @queenmsupas]


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