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Zimbabwe successfully growing potatoes in sacks

November 30, 2013
A revolutionarised way of growing potatoes in sacks is set to significantly transform the lives of women and the youth from Harare South in Zimbabwe who have embraced this method in a big way.

A number of them are re-writing their stories through adoption of the lucrative way of growing potatoes as they take advantage of the pieces of land they got under land reform.

The women and youths, in a bid to fight poverty, have taken up the initiative to start self-sufficiency projects to grow potatoes in discarded sacks.

The new method was adopted from Israel and the United States of America.

A farmer gets the most out of a single plant and can harvest a maximum of 30 kilogrammes of potatoes from a single plant.

The method was only introduced in Zimbabwe early this year but many people joined the project two months ago after watching the project pioneers hit the "gold mine".

Rekai Tangwena district chairperson for Zanu-PF Cde Naume Sibanda said people from Harare South took up the initiative after undergoing a one-day training programme.

She said the impressive market value of the potatoes has lured women and youths to start their own projects.

"So far we have 20 groups of 20 women each who are into sack potato growing and more are interested in joining us but they have not started because of financial challenges which our National Assembly member Cde Shadreck Mashayamombe is looking into,"Cde Sibanda said.

"The women in this area are fired up for this project and our energetic MP is also fired up when it comes to development and poverty alleviation matters.

"Some of the people in this area are former farm workers. They know how to grow crops but all they lack is the funding. These are the people who are being assisted."

The first two women to venture into the project are Sofaret Badza (47) and Josephine Moyo (50) who have 7 000 plants on a single hectare of land.

They invested US$10 000 into the project two months ago and they will be harvesting their crop in the next two months. They expect to realise close to US$70 000.

The plants are grown in 90kg sacks which are filled with soil up to 25 centimetres.

More soil is added as the plant grows and the leaves mature while more potatoes are produced.

Ordinary potatoes take about three months to mature while those grown in sacks require four months.

"Using this system is an advantage for the farmers as moisture introduced to a plant stays for longer. The case is the same when one applies fertilisers to the crops while nothing is lost into the ground,"said Simola Chidhakwa, a 52-year-old mother of five who has 112 plants of her own.

"Disease control is much easier. No worm will move from one sack to the next and this results in the production of good quality tubers."

Space constraints are not much of a challenge as long as the sacks are lined up properly.

Farmers in cities do not have to worry about that challenge since a single hectare of sack potatoes carries more plants than those planted in the ground.

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