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Sweetpotato Seed Systems to Improve Nutrition in Northern Ethiopia

May 07 2015   |   By: margaret-mcewan   |   0   |  

Dr. Beyene Demstu is a researcher in biotechnology, based at the Mekele Agricultural Research Institute, Tigray Region, Ethiopia. He was speaking in Kigali, Rwanda, where he was attending the annual face-face-meeting of the Seed Systems Community of Practice. The meeting, which took place on 28 and 29 May 2015, brought together 40 sweetpotato specialists from all corners of Africa to tackle the issues around farmers’ seed constraints.

His career is a calling and a tradition. Farming is in his blood. “I live in the northern part of Ethiopia, where agriculture has been practiced for more than 3,000 years.” In 1984, a devastating famine ravaged his motherland Ethiopia. His home area in the northern region was also affected. Demstu survived on bread for over 11 months. Others were not as lucky. Nationwide, over one million people starved to death in less than a year. People migrated and family separated. “There are some families who still don’t know where their loved ones are,” Demstu says. These experiences strengthened his resolve and interest to work on improving seed varieties.

Dr. Beyene Demtsu of Tigrai Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) Dr. Beyene Demtsu of Tigrai Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) asks a question during a learning visit to Rubona Research Station in Rwanda

Sweetpotato is new to my region but it has a big potential

Demstu has been a breeder for over twenty years, working on biotechnology and tissue culture, with a focus on highland legumes, wheat and barley. Three years ago, he started research work on sweetpotato. He is convinced of the value of promoting sweetpotato, in particular the Vitamin A rich orange-fleshed varieties. “Sweetpotato is very new to my region but it has a very big potential. Malnutrition of children under five years is 30-40% and most of it is Vitamin A deficiency. With sweetpotato, you can feed the children and improve their nutrition status.” In collaboration with the International Potato Center, Demstu is working on methods to increase the multiplication rate of sweetpotato so that there is more, good quality seed to reach more households and to avoid future hunger. “All I do is to try and assist farmers get clean planting material.”

The Community of Practice a source of experience and knowledge

As a member of the Seed Systems Community of Practice, Demstu is tapping into useful knowledge on biotechnology and sweetpotato. “I do not have to reinvent the wheel, just listen and learn from those who have more experience and knowledge,” he explains. One of the greatest outcomes, according to Demstu, is how the relationship with scientists across Africa has facilitated the release of new sweetpotato varieties in his country.

SPHI Sweetpotato Seed Systems COP - Kigali, Rwanda Dr. Beyene Demtsu of Tigrai Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) and Antony Masinde of Farm Concern International introduce themselves ahead of the Seed Systems Community of Practice Meeting in Kigali (Credit: C. Bukania)

Improving sweetpotato production is only one step. He knows that it is not going to be easy to get his community to eat more sweetpotato, but knowing its value, he is ready to do all it takes to get the new crop accepted. “It is a crop that can improve food and nutrition security and help to build a brilliant future generation.”

The Seed Systems Community of Practice is part of the Sweetpotato for Profit and Health Initiative (SPHI). SPHI is a 10-year, multi donor initiative that seeks to reduce child malnutrition and improve smallholder incomes through the effective production and expanded use of sweetpotato. It aims to build consumer awareness or sweetpotato’s nutritional benefits, diversify its use, and increase market opportunities, especially in expanding urban markets of Sub-Saharan Africa. The SPHI is expected to improve the lives of 10 million households by 2020 in 17 target countries.

Members of the Seed Systems Community of Practice hold discussions during their annual meeting in Kigali, Rwanda Members of the Seed Systems Community of Practice hold discussions during their annual meeting in Kigali, Rwanda

Scaling up Sweetpotato through Agriculture & Nutrition – Annual Planning Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda

Apr 15 2015   |   By: saraquinn   |   0   |  

The 5-year regional project led by the International Potato Center (CIP) and the UK Department for International Development is working to enhance nutrition and food security of women and young children in East and Southern Africa through integrated agriculture - nutrition interventions utilizing orange - fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP). The project aims to reach 1.2 million farming households in Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, and Rwanda.

Country teams from Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda and Kenya joined regional staff from Uganda and Kenya in Kigali for a five-day discussion on all things OFSP! The meeting was a fantastic opportunity for staff from the 4 SUSTAIN countries to discuss, reflect and plan. The weeklong meeting included lively debate and technical discussions on issues of sweetpotato processing and markets; improving nutrition awareness and practices and disseminating sweetpotato vines.

The SUSTAIN team enjoying a moment outside at the beginning of the week long annual planning meeting The SUSTAIN team enjoying a moment outside at the beginning of the week long annual planning meeting (Credit: S. Quinn/CIP)

A highlight of the week was the field day in which meeting attendees visited project sites south of Kigali. Participants were able to walk the fields with a women’s group working on OFSP vine multiplication. A cooperative specializing in OFSP processing and food production showcased how they’ve successfully incorporated OFSP flour into some of their products including Queencakes. Two local farmers shared their first-hand experiences with OFSP roots and multiplying OFSP vines and the positive impact they’ve had on their families’ income and health. It was a fantastic day and a great opportunity to discuss ideas and generate debate on issues relating to OFSP production, utilization and nutrition.

OFSP products (OFSP Queencakes and OFSP Flour) on display at Indyo Inoze, a cooperative from Muhanga District which SUSTAIN staff visited during the field trip OFSP products (OFSP Queencakes and OFSP Flour) on display at Indyo Inoze, a cooperative from Muhanga District which SUSTAIN staff visited during the field trip (Credit: S. Quinn/CIP)

The week also presented the opportunity to officially launch SUSTAIN Rwanda at a fantastic event which saw partners, donors and media come together to celebrate the project. Read more about the launch here.

ABOUT SUSTAIN: SUSTAIN is a 5-year partnership (2013-2018), coordinated by CIP and financed by the UK Department for International Development, to scale up the nutrition benefits of biofortified orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP). The goal is to reach 1.2 million households with under-5 year old children in Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Rwanda. SUSTAIN supports integrated interventions in agriculture, nutrition, utilization and marketing to strengthen production and consumption of OFSP.

Orange Fleshed Sweetpotato (OFSP) have a huge potential for improving vitamin A status among young children and strengthening livelihoods in Rwanda. Biofortified, vitamin A rich OFSP varieties are an effective tool for reducing vitamin A deficiency (VAD) among children under five years of age, the group most at risk of VAD.

Jean Claude Nshimiyimana, Seed Systems Officer at CIP Rwanda discusses OFSP and SUSTAIN with the local media on a field trip to visit OFSP farmers, multipliers and processors Jean Claude Nshimiyimana, Seed Systems Officer at CIP Rwanda discusses OFSP and SUSTAIN with the local media on a field trip to visit OFSP farmers, multipliers and processors (Credit: S. Quinn/CIP)

VITA an OFSP variety grown in Rwanda VITA an OFSP variety grown in Rwanda (Credit: S. Quinn/CIP)

SUSTAIN Staff visiting an OFSP vine multiplier in Southern Rwanda SUSTAIN Staff visiting an OFSP vine multiplier in Southern Rwanda (Credit: S. Quinn/CIP)

SUSTAIN Staff enjoying the field visit to OFSP vine multipliers in Southern Rwanda SUSTAIN Staff enjoying the field visit to OFSP vine multipliers in Southern Rwanda (Credit: S. Quinn/CIP)

You can read more about the SUSTAIN project and CIP’s global Sweetpotato program here. See photos from the event on the CIP SSA Flickr site.

VISTA MOZAMBIQUE launches in Nampula, Mozambique

Apr 14 2015   |   By: saraquinn   |   1   |  

On March 17, 2015, the International Potato Center (CIP) launched a robust project the Viable Sweetpotato Technologies for Africa (VISTA) that aims to get OFSP directly into the hands of 25,000 Mozambican households with another 150,000 households indirectly benefitting from improved OFSP varieties and technologies. Investments in research and development over the last few years have generated improved technologies for sweetpotato which have in turn greatly improved nutrition, income and food security. The 3-year USAID funded “Feed the Future” initiative is being rolled out in collaboration with the Mozambique Agrarian Research Institute (IIAM) and the Government of Nampula.

VISTA aims to disseminate improved varieties of OFSP, conservation technologies for root vines, and behavior change messages that will lead to the increased adoption of OFSP into the local diet in 7 districts in the Zambezia (Gurué and High Molocué) and Nampula (Meconta, Monapo, Murrupula and Nampula-Rapale) provinces. The overall objective is to contribute to improved nutrition, food security and incomes of small-scale farmers and their families through increased production and better use of nutritious varieties of OFSP, especially for those most at risk of VAD. The dissemination of the drought tolerant OFSP will be associated with key messages on nutrition and during the three years of implementation the project. Previous CIP and Feed the Future OFSP interventions in Mozambique led to a 15% drop in VAD levels among small children.

More than 100 event attendees were entertained by a Cultural Group from CLUSA whose bright orange t-shirt mimicked the tell-tale color of OFSP. Among the guests were opening speaker Constantino Cuambe of IIAM; Pedro Zucule, the Provincial Director of Agriculture representing the Government of Nampula province; Feliciano Mazuze, the IIAM Director for Technologies Transfer; Sheryl Stumbras the Deputy Director for USAID Mission in Mozambique and the Tim Born, Director of Agriculture, Trade, and Business (ATB) at USAID-Mozambique.

“CIP will use all its means to achieve the targets of VISTA not only in Mozambique, but also in Malawi, and Tanzania,” Dr. Simon Heck, Sweetpotato Program Leader at CIP said. “Partnership will be essential in our intervention, and that is why CIP is very privileged to work with all project partners in Nampula and in Mozambique in General.”

After the official opening the group toured an exhibition of OFSP products followed by a field trip to a nearby sweetpotato multiplication plot established at PAN (IIAM-Research Station in Nampula) where they witnessed vines being distributed to beneficiaries. ”I am very honoured to be one of the first sweetpotato multipliers in the Nampula region of Mozambique,” said Vieira Sardinha Tuquiua, a DVM Decentralised Vine Multiplier from Murrupula district who has benefited from the work that CIP has done on OFSP in the region. “I look forward to working with CIP to make sure all the farmers around me get the new OFSP varities.”

It was a great event enjoyed by all who attended. See a collection of bright and colourful images from the event below or visit the CIP SSA Flickr site.

View of the performance of the Cultural Group of CLUSA during the opening of the VISTA launching (credit to B. Rakotoarisoa) View of the performance of the Cultural Group of CLUSA during the opening of the VISTA launching (credit to B. Rakotoarisoa)

Welcoming remarks by the Director of IIAM-Centro Zonal Nordeste in Nampula, Mr. Constantino Cuambe (credit to B. Rakotoarisoa) Welcoming remarks by the Director of IIAM-Centro Zonal Nordeste in Nampula, Mr. Constantino Cuambe (credit to B. Rakotoarisoa)

Dr Maria Andrade from CIP-Mozambique during her presentation (credit to B. Rakotoarisoa) Dr Maria Andrade from CIP-Mozambique during her presentation (credit to B. Rakotoarisoa)

The Decentralised Vine Multiplier Vieira Sardinha Tuquiua from Murrupula district shares his experience in relation to multiplication and distribution of vines (credit to B. Rakotoarisoa) The Decentralised Vine Multiplier Vieira Sardinha Tuquiua from Murrupula district shares his experience in relation to multiplication and distribution of vines (credit to B. Rakotoarisoa)

Mr Tim Born, from the USAID Mission in Mozambique (credit to B. Rakotoarisoa) Mr Tim Born, from the USAID Mission in Mozambique (credit to B. Rakotoarisoa)

Mr Feliciano Mazuze, speaking on behalf of DG of IIAM (credit to B. Rakotoarisoa) Mr Feliciano Mazuze, speaking on behalf of DG of IIAM (credit to B. Rakotoarisoa)

Mr Pedro Zucula, the representative of the Government of Nampula and the Ministry of Agriculture Mr Pedro Zucula, the representative of the Government of Nampula and the Ministry of Agriculture who officially proclaimed the VISTA-Mozambique launched (credit to B. Rakotoarisoa)

Display of OFSP technologies (credit to B. Rakotoarisoa and Abdul Naico) Display of OFSP technologies (credit to B. Rakotoarisoa and Abdul Naico)

SUSTAIN Rwanda officially launched in Kigali by Dr Jean Jacque Muhinda, Director General of Rwanda Agriculture Board

Apr 13 2015   |   By: saraquinn   |   0   |  

An enthusiastic group of 45 people gathered together on March 10th to officially launch the Scaling up Sweetpotato through Agriculture and Nutrition (SUSTAIN) project in Rwanda’s capital of Kigali. Bio-fortified, vitamin A rich Orange Fleshed Sweetpotato (OFSP) varieties are an effective tool for reducing vitamin A deficiency (VAD) among children under five years of age, the group most at risk of VAD and bolstering livelihoods in Rwanda. VAD can lead to increased susceptibility to infections and blindness.

Over the next five years SUSTAIN aims to reach 1.2 million households with children under the age of 5 in Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Rwanda with integrated interventions in agriculture, nutrition, utilization and marketing to increase and strengthen OFSP consumption and production. The launch saw a range of NGO's, private sector organizations, media and regional and district level agricultural experts come together to discuss SUSTAIN and the role of Orange Fleshed Sweetpotato in Rwanda and East Africa.

Attendees celebrating the launch of SUSTAIN Rwanda in Kigali on March 10
Attendees celebrating the launch of SUSTAIN Rwanda in Kigali on March 10 (Credit: S. Quinn/CIP)

The International Potato Center (CIP) managed project in Rwanda will scale up the development of an OFSP seed system, link beneficiaries to market through effective partnerships and integrate agriculture-nutrition health linkages to deliver OFSP to various segments of Rwandan households. By 2018 the project will reach an estimated 50,000 direct and 250,000 indirect Rwandan beneficiaries with young children with nutrition information and counseling in selected districts. Improved nutrition through dietary diversity and the increased OFSP consumption will also be emphasized at the household and community level.

Kirimi Sindi CIP Rwanda Country Manager engaging in a lively discussion with participants about OFSP and SUSTAIN in Rwanda
Kirimi Sindi CIP Rwanda Country Manager engaging in a lively discussion with participants about OFSP and SUSTAIN in Rwanda (Credit: S. Quinn, CIP)

Dr. Jean Jacque Muhinda, Director General of the Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB) a close collaborator with the SUSTAIN team officially launched the event. “In order to make a decisive impact on improving household and child nutrition, a comprehensive multi-sectorial policy and multi-partner action must be put into place,” he advised the attendees. “This is where a project like SUSTAIN can make a great contribution to the Rwanda society.” He went on to stress the importance of collaboration across sectors and stakeholders and gave project highlights on how SUSTAIN will meet its goals of helping farmers adopt new OFSP technologies; increase OFSP household consumption and encourage industrial diversified utilization of orange sweet potato.

Throughout the launch proceedings, Dr. Simon Heck SUSTAIN Project Leader and CIP Program Leader for Sweetpotato emphasized the importance of partnerships to the SUSTAIN program to achieve the programs ambitious goals of reaching 1.2 million households across 4 countries (Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Malawi) over the next 5 years. While a project officer from SUSTAIN funder UK Department for International Development spoke to the impact of investing in bio-fortified crops. “SUSTAIN Rwanda is taking place in the wider context of increased interest and investments in agriculture for nutrition and understanding what works. With a growing portfolio of bio-fortified crops being rolled out in Africa and South Asia, and strong evidence in efficacy of some of these new bio-fortified crops (including iron beans in Rwanda) there is now growing demand for robust evidence on impact of agricultural programs on nutrition.”

OFSP products on display at the launch of SUSTAIN Rwanda
OFSP products on display at the launch of SUSTAIN Rwanda (Credit: S. Quinn/CIP)

Launch participants sampled an array of OFSP products being produced by Indyo Inoze, a cooperative from Muhanga District including: breads, cakes, and biscuits. OFSP is a cost-effective and vitamin A rich substitute to wheat flour and can be used to replace up to 43% of the more costly grain in manufactured products. This led to an animated discussion around issues of seed systems and nutrition.

Dr Simon Heck, Program Leader, Sweetpotato at CIP answer questions from the local media
Dr Simon Heck, Program Leader, Sweetpotato at CIP answer questions from the local media (Credit: S. Quinn, CIP & A. Ndayisenga, CIP)

Local media was also in attendance demonstrating interest in agriculture and nutrition projects in the Rwanda context. After the launch two major media outlets invited to participate in radio shows: Jean Claude Nshimiyimana, Seed Systems Officer and Aime Communications officer with CIP Rwanda discussed OFSP, SUSTAIN and CIP during a 30 minute radio talk show at CONTACT FM and Nshiminyimana and Jean Ndirigwe, Head of Sweetpotato Program at RAB (Rwanda Agricultural Board) were invited to participate in a coveted 8-10 a.m. Sunday morning radio slot on Radio Rwanda to discuss OFSP for 90 minutes. The shows highlighted the health and income generation of OFSP and encouraged listeners to sample new OFSP varieties. The live format included call in features where listeners could ask questions about OFSP, SUSTAIN and CIP.

The interviews were a great way to highlight our strong collaborations with partners in Rwanda and to discuss new opportunities on the horizon. Well done to the Rwanda team on fantastic media outreach!

A collection of media coverage from the event can be viewed here.

You can read more about the SUSTAIN project and CIP’s global Sweetpotato program here. See photos from the event on the CIP SSA Flickr site.

Reaching Agents Of Change

Apr 07 2015   |   By: rac   |   0   |  

The Reaching Agents of Change (RAC) project (2011-2014) was a unique initiative that was implemented by the International Potato Center (CIP) and Helen Keller International (HKI), in partnership with national research, education and extension institutions. The development goal of RAC was to increase the rates of vitamin A intake in targeted beneficiary countries. RAC advocated for increased investment in orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP) to combat vitamin A deficiency (VAD) among young children and women of reproductive age. RAC also built institutional capacity to design and implement gender-sensitive projects to ensure wide access and utilization of OFSP in Mozambique, Tanzania, Nigeria, and to a lesser extent in Ghana and Burkina Faso. The project has built the capacity of national advocates, regional champions to influence key decision makers and investors to invest in OFSP projects and trained change agents on technical aspects of OFSP. Those trained have conducted step-down courses reaching tertiary trainers and farmers. Interest is emerging along the entire OFSP value chain in communities that have benefitted from RAC’s promotion, advocacy and capacity building efforts. As RAC phase 1 comes to an end, this 5 minute video documentary highlights the key results achieved and some of the key networks that facilitated the achievement of the project outcomes. The Wonder Root is a short documentary feature on the impact of the project’s activities on the lives of beneficiaries and the extent to which RAC has achieved its intended outcomes. RAC encourages donors, private sector, foundations and philanthropists to invest in initiatives that scale-up food-based approaches that link agriculture and nutrition. RAC is grateful to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for funding the project.