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Bangladesh: Changing diets, incomes and community status, one sweetpotato vine nursery at a time

Oct 15 2013   |   By: admin   |   0   |   Posted in Blogs, Sweetpotato

Bangladesh’s unequal land inheritance law and patriarchal society leave most rural women extremely poor and marginalized. The USAID-funded Horticulture Project, which began in October 2011, pursues the ambitious goal of improving the income and nutritional security of 100,000 households in Southern Bangladesh. While the project works with both men and women, several components are specifically targeting women.


The four-year project, which CIP is implementing in collaboration with the World Vegetable Center (AVRDC), focuses on the production, consumption, and sale of potatoes, sweetpotatoes, and target vegetables, as well as the sale of planting materials. As vitamin A-rich orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP) is a key crop for improved nutrition, the project chose OFSP vine multiplication at homestead gardens and nurseries as a key activity to engage women farmers.


“I believe the sweetpotato has huge potential to contribute to the poorest households, since it can be grown in tiny plots and it doesn’t require a lot of labor”, explained Shawkat Begum, the Chief of Party at CIP Bangladesh. As of September 2013, the project has trained 7,706 women – 7,381 at their homestead lands and 325 at nurseries. All participants received training on vine propagation and nursery establishment with the objective of establishing a seed system with quality planting materials, promote supply of nutritious leafy vegetables, and earn the women additional income that their families need through the sale of vines and roots.


Participants receiving vines after the training


“I earned BDT 12,000 (US$156) in seven months,” 50-year-old Joygun told Begum last May at her home in Chougacha Upazila, Jessore District. “With the money I bought a goat, household items, and I even saved a little,” she explained proudly. But Joygun’s successful experience with vine propagation does not end here. By starting her own business, she has earned the respect of her community, and more importantly, she has reduced her dependency on her son and daughter-in-law. “They don’t see me and my husband as a burden anymore; I can help them and spend on my grandchildren.” Joygun is planning to rent more land for root crop production in the upcoming season.


Joygun in front of her nursery


A change in husbands’ attitudes is key to ensuring that the enterprises that women create continue after the project ends. “Now my husband sees that I can also earn money for my family”, said Jahanara, whose husband Mizanur Rahman manages a small plot of land and a grocery shop. She was trained in OFSP vine multiplication and nursery establishment, and she appreciates the nutritional value of the orange-fleshed sweetpotato. “We used part of the money I earned to buy a real bed, and items for the grocery store”, she explained. She has become a knowledge broker in her community, telling neighboring mothers about the nutritional benefits of OFSP leaves and roots. Furthermore, sweetpotato-leaf curry has become popular on the community, and a common dish in Jahanara’s family.


Jahanara cutting her vines to sell to farmers


“The impact on the lives of these women is tremendous”, explains Shawkat Begum. The nurseries have earned them respect and identity in their homes and communities. “This simple technology has brought about several life-changing benefits. These include ensuring nutritious food for their families, increasing their access to productive resources, facilitating their economic empowerment, and improving their status in the community”.

Sweetpotato Facts and Figures

Jul 20 2011   |   By: admin   |   0   |   Posted in Sweetpotato

Sweetpotato (Ipomoea batatas) belongs to the morning-glory family. In spite of its name, it is not related to the potato. Unlike the potato - which is a tuber, or thickened stem - the sweetpotato is a storage root. Despite a physical similarity, yams are not related either.


Worldwide, sweetpotato is the sixth most important food crop after rice, wheat, potatoes, maize and cassava. But in developing countries, it is the fifth most important food crop. More than 105 million metric tons are produced globally each year; 95% of which are grown in developing countries.

Sweetpotato can grow at altitudes ranging from sea level to 2,500 meters. It requires fewer inputs and less labor than other crops such as maize, and tolerates marginal growing conditions (e.g., dry spells, poor soil).

Sweetpotato comes in varieties with skin and flesh color that range from white to yellow, orange, and deep purple. Orange-fleshed sweetpotato is an important source of beta-carotene, the precursor to Vitamin A. Just 125g of fresh sweetpotato roots from most orange-fleshed varieties contain enough beta-carotene to provide the daily pro-vitamin A needs of a preschooler.

Sweetpotato is also a valuable source of vitamins B, C, and E, and it contains moderate levels of iron and zinc.

Nutritionists in the USA are exploring the potential cancer preventing properties of the anthocyanins, which are present in purple-fleshed sweetpotato.

Though its origins lie in Latin America, Asia is now the largest sweetpotato-producing region in the world, with figures showing over 90 million tons produced annually. China is the world’s biggest producer and consumer of sweetpotato, where it is used for food, animal feed, and processing (as food, starch, and other products).

The importance of sweetpotato as a food crop is growing rapidly in some parts of the world. In Sub-Saharan Africa, it is outpacing the growth rate of other staples.

Sweetpotato is used for both human consumption and as a healthy, cheap source of animal feed. Recent studies suggest that animals fed on high protein sweetpotato vines produce less methane gas than with other feed, potentially contributing an important reduction in harmful global emissions.

Sweetpotato has a long history as a life saver. The Japanese used it when typhoons demolished their rice fields. It kept millions from starvation in famine-plagued China in the early 1960’s and came to the rescue in Uganda in the 1990’s, when a virus ravaged cassava crops.



Sweetpotato Nutrition

Jul 15 2011   |   By: admin   |   0   |   Posted in Sweetpotato

Sweetpotatoes produce more edible energy per hectare per day than wheat, rice or cassava. They are good sources of carbohydrates, fiber, and micronutrients. The leaves and shoots, which are also edible, are good sources of vitamins A, C, and B (Riboflavin).


Orange-fleshed sweetpotato is an important source of beta-carotene (the precursor to Vitamin A). Just 125 g of fresh roots from most orange-fleshed varieties contain enough beta-carotene to provide the daily pro-vitamin A needs of a preschooler. This is particularly important in Sub Saharan Africa

and Asia where vitamin A deficiency is a leading cause of blindness, disease and premature death among children under five and pregnant women. Nutritionists identify different levels of beta-carotene according to varying pigmentation in orange-fleshed varieties by means of a color chart.

CIP is exploring the potential cancer preventing properties of purple fleshed sweetpotato. The anthocyanins that account for the purple pigmentation in this variety are powerful antioxidants and have good bioavailability, meaning they are easily absorbed by the human body.

Average Micronutrient Content of Orange-Fleshed Sweetpotato
Iron (mg) 0.5
Zinc (mg) 0.2
Calcium (mg) 34
Potassium (mg) 298
Phosophorous (mg) 29
Total carotenoids (mg) 15.5
Beta-carotene (mg) 13.1

Per 100 grams of fresh-weight, raw, unpeeled sweetpotato
Source: Quality and Nutrition Lab, CIP

More Information

Sweetpotato Processing and Uses

Apr 04 2011   |   By: admin   |   0   |   Posted in Sweetpotato

Many parts of the sweetpotato plant are edible, including the root, leaves, and shoots.

Sweetpotato vines also provide the basis for a high-protein animal feed.

Sweetpotato use has diversified considerably over the last four decades. With high starch content, it is well suited to processing and has become an important source of raw material for starch and starch-derived industrial products.

Added value for farmers comes from a variety of products and ingredients made from sweetpotato root including flour, dried chips, juice, bread, noodles, candy, and pectin.

New products include liquors and a growing interest in the use of the anthocyanin pigments in the purple varieties for food colorings and use in the cosmetics industry.