The potato-growing belts in sub-Saharan Africa have experienced steady increases in heat stress, irregular rainfall, persistent droughts, high soil erosion rates and recurrent floods. This has not only jeopardized food security and weakened efforts to eradicate poverty, it has increased land degradation and put pressure on forestlands.
Researchers working with the International Potato Center (CIP) in Nairobi, Kenya and Lima, Peru explains in a research brief that potato yields in in sub-Saharan Africa average 7–15 metric tons/hectare (t/ha), far below attainable yields of 40 t/ha. Therefore, under the current climatic scenario, sustainable intensification is necessary for saving water and increasing the productivity of nutrients and land.
Researchers Nyawade Shadrack, Elke Vandamme, Michael Friedmann and Monica Parker report on two potential roles of potato-legume intercropping: (i) improved control of soil erosion to make potato production more sustainable in the highlands; and (ii) optimizing soil temperatures, soil water contents and soil nutrient balance thus enabling potato production in the drier midland agro-food systems.
The research results are derived from six separate studies conducted between the 2014 wet season and 2018 dry season in Kenya. Five sites were purposively selected to represent four different agroecological zones (AEZs): lower midland (LM), upper midland (UM), lower highland (LH) and upper highland (UH).