Annet Draleru, a 41-year-old mother of four children, first got to know about orange sweet potatoes in 2013 during the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Activity on Developing and Delivering Biofortified Cops (DDBC), which was being implemented by HarvestPlus and Volunteer Efforts for Development Concern (VEDCO) in Mukono district. Little did she know that this interaction would change her life.

The DDBC Activity was identifying farmer groups to receive start-up vitamin A-biofortified orange sweet potato vines. Annet’s group was identified and since she was the chairperson of her group, she automatically became the designated community resource person (CRP). Each group member received half a bag of vines, which they all planted in their respective gardens. Annet planted her share on a quarter acre of land.

The next season, after appreciating the yield and the nutritional value of these potatoes, she got more vines from her neighbors and expanded her garden to a half-acre; she continued expanding her garden and now has a four-acre garden of orange sweet potato vines and a one-acre garden of orange sweet potato roots. She sells the vines to NGOs, individual farmers, and schools. 

In the last season of 2020, she sold 450 bags of vines at a price of USD 3.70 per bag, for a total of USD 1665. She used the proceeds from the sale of vines mainly for school fees for her two children attending tertiary institutions.  In addition,  she provides about two or three bags of orange sweet potato roots to the school where her two other children study to cover their school fees.

“I am very happy with this arrangement because I find it much easier to deliver the sweet potatoes to the school in exchange rather than money,” said Annet with a smile.  The orange sweet potatoes have helped her keep her children in school. 

Being a CRP, Annet received a number of trainings from USAID DDBC in agronomy, nutrition, marketing, and value addition of orange sweet potatoes. After the training, she started making products from orange sweet potatoes like daddies (a local delicacy made from iron beans, wheat, and OSP flour), cakes, flour, and chapatis, which she sells to neighboring schools and around Mukono district. The USAID DDBC Activity also started supporting her to participate in agricultural trade shows where she would make and sell orange sweet potato products.

“After perfecting my skills in value addition of orange sweet potato, I now receive many invitations from different NGOs such as World Vision, who hire me to train their staff in value addition,” said Annet. 

Today the USAID Meals for Nutrition Biofortified Solutions in Uganda (MENU) Activity engages Annet in training women and youth groups around the country in value addition of orange sweet potatoes and iron beans. 

“I have been able to renovate my house and put on glass windows from the money I got. I’m grateful to USAID, HarvestPlus, and VEDCO for improving my life” said Annet. “Orange sweet potato changed my life from a simple farmer to a value addition trainer.”

To date, five iron bean varieties and six vitamin A OSP varieties have been released through these projects to farmers in Uganda. By the end of 2019, nearly 960,000 smallholder farming households—comprising nearly 4.7 million people, or more than 10 percent of Uganda’s population—were growing and eating these OSP varieties, while 695,000 households (nearly 3.4 million people) were growing iron beans.