Production Status and Prospects of Cocoyam (Colocasia esculenta (L.) Schott.) in East Africa

Department of Crop Science, Makerere University, P. O. Box 7062, Kampala, UGANDA
Journal of Root Crops 01/2009; 35:98-107.

ABSTRACT The extent of production and consumption of cocoyam in East Africa is not known neither is the types of cocoyam being grown. This is partly because both researchers and research administrators have ignored it as legitimate crop for research and development (R&D), and their production system is regarded as an informal production activity, managed outside conventional market and economic channels. Yet, in the region, cocoyam is contributing substantially to the food and income security of many households. This study was aimed primarily at providing baseline information for understanding cocoyam production systems and management factors associated with cocoyam production system in the Lake Victoria crescent. A total of 270 survey responses, representing eight districts of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda collected during 2006 and 2007 were analysed. Results of the survey indicate that cocoyam cultivation is entrenched in the crop production systems in the East African region characterised by widespread, small-scale cocoyam growing within the wetlands under rain-fed conditions. Farmers grow the crop for increased food security and to supplement income. It is eaten by people of all ages and is particularly fed to weaned children, and usually sold at farm gate. However, farmers consider the current cocoyam yields as low and still declining due to declining soil fertility, unavailability of planting material and improved varieties, weeds, pests and diseases, limited land for expansion, and lack of deliberate research and extension effort to support cocoyam production, utilization and consumption. Consequently, production of cocoyam in East Africa is lagging behind that of other root and tuber crops. This report gives premise for interventions that can result, in the short run, in the improvement of cocoyam production and utilization, and harness its contribution to food and income security of farmers in East Africa.

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