We took an extra motorcycle to the field on Friday. Strapped on the back were two large bags of orange-flesh sweet potato vines for our class. The boda driver helped us take them all the way to the demonstration garden site, which is about a mile down a dirt path from Coorom Primary School.
Orange sweet potatoes are one of the crops that we are focusing on for nutritional purposes. Choc (sweet potatoes) are already eaten as a staple here, but the white variety is far more common than the orange-flesh variety. As Calvin explained to us, there is an attitude that the white color is superior to the orange. However, the orange-flesh sweet potatoes contain more vitamins, including vitamin A, which is particularly important in an area with high occurrence of vitamin A deficiency. In addition to teaching the best techniques for growing sweet potatoes, the program is emphasizing the importance of choosing the orange variety for nutritional purposes.
The students were excited to open the bags and begin cutting the vines. When pulled out of the ground, the vines begin sprouting new roots from nodes along the stems in search of soil to root into. Calvin had the students cut the vines into 15 cm lengths, which were then planted in groups of three in mounds of soil. Each cutting was immersed into the soil so that only two growth nodes were above ground and in the right orientation.
While half of the students were preparing the cuttings, the other half was using the hoes to make one-meter mounds of soil in the upper plot of the garden. Max played music while we dug, which the students loved. It got to be late in the afternoon, past the time the class was supposed to end, but the students wanted to finish off the sweet potato section before going home. Despite all our hard work, there were so many vine sections that not all of them could be planted. The remainder was divided up and sent home with the students so they could plant them in their own gardens at home.
On the first day of the course, several students mentioned that they wished to be provided with seeds to use what they are learning at their own farms. Fortunately, we were able to find the funds to provide seeds and vines for the students to take home, which will allow the students to grow nutritious food to support their family and put the concepts they are learning in the course into practice. This extra funding is coming from the donations of our supporters. Thank you for your contributions and support of our program. On the ground, we are able to see truly how far each dollar can go. It’s been a privilege to be able to witness the sharing of the resources from our community at home with the community here.
A bag of cut-up sweet potato vines may sound like it’s not much, but when it is planted with care in the soil and shared among the students, it is a valuable resource. It becomes an investment in the future of these youth, both for education and for nourishment.