My Friend the Dependable Sweet Potato

Crop production


Program host:

Mrs. Nyanga asked her primary eight school students to write an essay on friendship. Each student had to read their essay to the class and explain what made his or her friend so special. They also had to write about how you treat people who are your friends. Mrs. Nyanga was expecting essays that spoke about truth, loyalty and respect for one another. She got that, as well as an unexpected surprise!

Listen to this essay written by Peter who wrote about a rather unusual friend. Do you have a friend like this …………?

[Note: The narrator can read this story or have the voice of a young boy provide the narration.]

I would like to tell you about some very good friends of mine.

They are good friends because they are so dependable.

If you treat them properly, there are many things they will do for you — in both good times and hard times.

My friends are sweet potatoes!


When there is no rain, my friends the sweet potatoes will feed me — even when other foods refuse to grow.

If I pay attention and take good care of my friends the sweet potatoes, I can eat them all year round.

Sweet potatoes are very strong and grow in sandy soils where other crops can’t grow.

And, sweet potatoes don’t need a lot of chemicals and fertilisers.

Even while the sweet potatoes are growing, you can eat the young green leaves.

My mother cooks the leaves like any other green leafy vegetable.

The health workers at the clinic say that I’m so healthy because I always eat the sweet potato leaves my mother cooks for me!


Now that the long rainy season is over, my mother and father prepare the sweet potatoes so that they will last for the whole year.

Before it gets really hot, my father gathers all the sweet potatoes that are left in the field.

He does this so weevils don’t get into the old roots.

My father says that many of his friends leave the sweet potato roots in the soil so that they will grow in the next rainy season.

But this can be bad because weevils like the woody vines that are left over from the last harvest.

If you take cuttings from these old plants when they start to grow again, you may transfer the weevils to your new field.

Also, if you leave the sweet potato roots in the soil, and a drought comes, the sweet potato plants might not grow at all.

Then you will have nothing to eat!

My father takes healthy sweet potato cuttings from our crop and plants them in a small nursery bed near our house.

Cuttings from the tips of the vines are the best planting material.

If you can’t get vine cuttings, you can also plant the potato tubers directly into the soil.

If you are lucky, maybe your father will give you a special job like mine.

I am responsible for watering the nursery bed in the dry season.

The new seedlings need a lot of watering for the first few weeks.

After this time, my friends can survive with very little water.

When the rains come back, we can immediately take fresh cuttings from the new vines to plant in our field.

My job will help feed our family if we have a drought this year!

Right now my father is building a storage pit for our sweet potatoes.

I helped him dig a round pit, which is a meter deep — about up to the top of my father’s leg — and a meter and a half wide.

We covered the bottom and sides with dried grass and then covered the pit with a straw roof.

Our neighbours are storing their potatoes in a hole sprinkled with wood ash and covered with grass — this is another good method.

My father says that if we do this job well then the sweet potatoes can be stored for two or three months!


My mother is very happy right now because our sweet potato crop helped make her pigs fat.

While we were growing our sweet potatoes, we gathered the vines and bruised roots and fed them to the pigs.

My mother always boils the roots for 15 minutes before feeding the pigs.

And she chops up the vines.

This makes the sweet potatoes easier for the pigs to digest.

Now that the dry season is here we can sell our fat pigs and make a nice profit.

I might get some new shoes next week!


I am happy right now because I know that my mother will take the sweet potatoes and dry them into flour.

Some people do not like the taste of sweet potato flour but everybody likes my mother’s baking!

She shreds the sweet potatoes and puts them in a bucket of water for 2 hours.

My sisters help my mother change the water two or three times.

Then they drain the water and put the sweet potato shreds in the shade for a few hours to dry in the breeze.

Then they move the shreds into the sun.

When all the shreds are brittle, they can grind them into flour.

My mother uses the flour a lot when she bakes cakes and breads.

She says we save a lot of money when we use this flour mixed with the wheat flour we buy.


So you see, sweet potatoes are the best friends a family could have!

If you care for them properly, they will feed you during hard times.

This is why I say that sweet potatoes are my good friends.

They are so dependable!

Program host:

Peter’s story of friendship is unusual but do you think it’s true? Do you find that sweet potatoes are a dependable friend that you can rely on in both good times and hard times?

Do you have other friends you’d like to tell us about on this program? Send your ideas to [insert your station/program information here].


Contributed by:  Moira Simpson, Researcher/writer, Windsor, Canada.

Reviewed by: Vigneswaran Thievendaram, Agriculture specialist, Cambridge, Canada.

Information sources

This script is based on Developing Countries Farm Radio Network, script 32-1, “Sweet potatoes: easy to grow, good to eat,” April 1994.

“Better food security with sweet potato,” Appropriate Technology, Vol. 27, No. 1, January/March 2000.  Research Information Ltd., 222 Marylands Avenue, HemelHempstead, Herts., HP2 7TD UK.

Amaranth to Zai Holes: Ideas for growing food under difficult conditions, Laura S. Meitzner, Martin L. Price, Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization, Inc. (ECHO), 1996.  ECHO, 16439 Durrance Road, North Fort Myers, Florida 33917-2239 USA. E-mail: