The key challenges and constraints facing sweet potatoes and cassava food sector in Kenya include low uptake of sweet potatoes and cassava farming; inadequate supply of good quality sweet potatoes and cassava from sustainable sources and unavailability of processed recipes of sweet potatoes and cassava in the fast food retail outlets, supermarkets and shopping malls. The proposed action will tackle these challenges by addressing the following specific problems:
- Weak sweet potatoes and cassava production and Market: The existing production and market for sweet potatoes and cassava are weak resulting in low demand;
- Poor involvement of stakeholders: Most pilot agribusiness projects have been weak in involving and partnering with key stakeholders such as farmers, CBOs, and local authorities, resulting in lack of commitments and fragmented efforts;
- Lack of institutional capacity building: Little or no attention has been paid to institutional realities such as lack of food processers and marketers who are essential to sustaining demand for sweet potatoes and cassava food;
- Low awareness: Low awareness among consumers, entrepreneurs and CSOs on the availability and the benefits of sweet potatoes and cassava;
- Poor marketing & promotion: Lack of differentiation of recipes and prices of sweet potatoes and cassava that caters to the purchasing power and tastes of specific consumers.
In Kenya, sweet potatoes and cassava are majorly sold raw and in the open air markets and are not available for retailing in the malls and supermarkets shelves. The cooked sweet potatoes and cassava are mainly available through the street-food vendors. This informal food preparation and processing outlets face a range of problems including hygiene related issues. Apart from street-food selling, there are also other food related businesses serving these foods as boiled or roasted and at a higher price due to their lengthy cooking time. This unavailability, raw selling nature, high price, monotonous recipes and lengthy cooking time has kept majority of Kenyan population especially those living in urban areas out of reach to the nutritious, delicious and versatile food. Market demand for raw sweet potatoes and cassava has often been on the lower side; on better seasons, 40% to 50% sweet potatoes and cassava produce yield largely goes to waste due to improper, inadequate or even mishandling of post harvest care. Our proposed innovation aims at developing and marketing affordable and portable solar cookers to overcome these challenges. The proposed technology will pull demand on the higher side for sweet potatoes and cassava foods and will broaden the market for sweet potatoes and cassava. Reducing post-harvest loss will improve food security and nutrition.