Gender-differentiated trait preferences for sweetpotato varieties in Tanzania. A Focus Group Discussion Report.

Sweetpotato (Ipomoea batatas (L) Lam) is a traditional subsistence crop grown in Tanzania and is increasingly
being marketed as an important crop for improved nutrition and food security. This has increased the need to
have varieties that are preferred by both producers and consumers, for sustained widespread adoption.
Furthermore, the production environments for sweetpotato are changing rapidly due to the changing climate,
necessitating changes in the traits preferred by the producers. Many of these trait preferences vary by gender of
producers and consumers, with women producers and consumers preferring certain traits considered
unimportant by men, and vice versa. To adequately cater to these various needs, breeders need to respond to
these changes in the demand for new varieties by introducing varieties that adequately meet the changing
preferences of end users.
This report is an update of information on gender-differentiated producer and consumer preferred
characteristics of sweet potato conducted at the Lake Zone of Tanzania. It is intended to inform gender
responsive breeding strategies, specifically to help set breeding priorities and to expand the potential impact of
improved sweetpotato varieties. Information in the report was obtained by interviewing sweetpotato farmers
and consumers from the Lake Zone districts of Tanzania (Bukombe, Butiama and Nyamagana) through focus
group discussions (FGDs). These FGDs comprised of about eight to twelve participants and were conducted
separately for men and women.
The study shows that consumption of sweetpotato in urban and sub-urban areas has increased in the last five
years. Although some of the urban households produce their own sweetpotato roots, most purchased the
product from local markets. Overall, the top three Sweetpotato varieties grown by both male and female FGD
participants were Ukimwi and Umeme in Bukombe district, and Rwakoma (Ukerewe) in Butiama district. On the
other hand, the common varieties consumed by both male and female participants in Bukombe district were
Polista and Ukimwi. Nyangubu and Polista were consumed by both male and female consumers in Butiama and
Nyamagana district, respectively. Flesh sweetness, high root yield, big root size, skin and flesh color were the
major preferred sweetpotato traits by producers, while the most important traits for both male and female
consumers were good root shape, skin color, high dry matter content, non-fibrous roots and sweet taste. The
study also revealed that preferred varieties by producer and consumers exhibit negative traits which should be
excluded by breeders to enhance their production and consumption.
While disaggregation of the results by gender show no major differences on the variety trait preference by men
and women, there is an indication that women tended to grow more varieties than men, including those with
low market demand but considered beneficial to the family’s wellbeing. These varieties possessed positive traits
such as big root size, high dry matter content, high yields and good taste. On the other hand, men mainly grew
varieties with a high market demand. Major differences were noted on the effect of variety traits on gendered
roles. For example, women were more affected by traits that increased their labor requirements compared to
men. This could be due to the fact that the crop is considered a woman’s crop in the study area and women
undertake most of the labor activities during its production.
In terms of awareness of improved varieties, the study showsthat only a few farmers know about Orange Fleshed
Sweet Potato (OFSP) varieties. While those who knew of these varieties had positive perceptions of the
yellow/orange color, they had little knowledge of their nutritional benefits. This implies the need to upscale and
out-scale efforts in sensitizing farmers on the nutritional benefits of growing and consuming OFSP varieties.
Gender-differentiated trait preferences for sweetpotato varieties in Tanzania vii
Three major recommendations arose from this research. First, a variety characterization study be conducted to
identify the names and characteristics of the varieties grown by farmers in the study area, and results shared
with sweet potato stakeholders. Second, improve the performance of the existing seed system by establishing
a more business-oriented seed system in the districts to ensure availability of quality planting material of the
preferred sweet potato varieties. Third, sweet potato breeding programmes consider incorporating producers,
consumers, and traders preferred traits into the development or improvement of sweetpotato varieties.

Citation: Mulwa C., Mussa H., Ogero K., Rajendran S., Wanjohi L. (2021). Gender-differentiated trait preferences for sweetpotato varieties in Tanzania. A Focus Group Discussion Report. Lima, Peru: International Potato Center.