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Scaling-up utilization of the orange-fleshed sweetpotato: Practitioners discuss how to overcome the obstacles

Jun 25 2015   |   By: christine-bukania   |   0   |  

The obstacles to OFSP scale-up and solutions to these obstacles were discussed at the 2015 Marketing, Processing and Utilization Community of Practice (CoP), which was held on 20 and 21 May in Nairobi.

Increasing private sector involvement

“One of the bottlenecks of OFSP adoption at industrial scale is a prevailing gap between innovators, implementers and policy makers, said Jean Pankuku, the Group Food Technologist at Universal Industries Ltd, Malawi. The company is in the process of researching and developing some OFSP baked products that will contribute significant amount of dietary vitamin A. She suggested that if OFSP research was to translate to adoption, all stakeholders would have to be included in discussions about findings and progress of innovations right from the beginning.

Dr. Sindi Kirimi, the Country Manager of the Scaling up Sweetpotato through Agriculture and Nutrition (SUSTAIN) project in Rwanda, agreed. Emphasizing that the private sector’s priority was commercial viability, he said that for anything to go to scale, some conditions had to be fulfilled. “First, the product must be acceptable to the consumer and be either as good as any other product in the market or even better. Secondly, the product has to be commercially acceptable.” Kirimi called for an increased effort to combine scientific and business skills to develop solutions that were relevant to the market.


Policy matters

When it comes to OFSP, getting the consumer’s acceptance of the product is not as straightforward as one would imagine. “In Rwanda, we worked from the ground up for over four years to ensure that people understood the importance of vitamin A for their health and the role that OFSP could play in nutrition and food security,” Kirimi recalled. He explained that creating awareness about OFSP and educating grassroots populations and policy makers was also essential for successful policy outcomes.

Dr. Robert Ackatia-Armah, who is the Regional Nutritionist at CIP, added that policy makers in Rwanda did not consider OFSP a priority in their food-based approach in combating vitamin A deficiency, because a robust and well-funded supplementation program already existed. “We focused on creating a better understanding of the potential of OFSP as a locally grown, cost-effective and sustainable solution to fight vitamin A deficiency even if external funding dried out,” he said.

These advocacy messages resulted in the inclusion of sweetpotato in general in the bio-fortification initiative in the National Food and Nutrition Policy (NFNP) and National Food and Nutrition Strategic Plan (NFNSP). In addition, OFSP is now considered as a complementary food for growing children.

Contributing to regional nutrition strategies

The developments in Rwanda are indicative of a general trend towards increased support of nutrition interventions in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2014, African Heads of State recommitted to allocate 10% of their budgets to agriculture, and the revised African regional nutrition strategy now looks at both nutrition-centered and nutrition-sensitive interventions.

The Marketing, Processing and Utilization CoP is part of the 10-year Sweetpotato for Profit and Health Initiative is (SPHI). It brings together professionals working on all levels of the sweetpotato value chain, as well as private sector players who are innovating processing and utilization of OFSP for commercial products. The ultimate goal is to increase consumption through product refinement using vitamin A- rich OFSP to reduce child malnutrition and improve smallholder incomes in 17 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.


New Study Finds that Orange Sweet Potato Reduces Diarrhea in Children

Jun 15 2015   |   By: admin   |   0   |  

The OSP was conventionally bred to provide more vitamin A in the diet. In Africa, more than 40 percent of children aged under five are estimated to be at risk of vitamin A deficiency. This increases the risk of diseases such as diarrhea, which is one of the leading causes of mortality in children, taking more than 350,000 lives of children under five in Africa every year.

Other studies have shown that vitamin A supplementation reduces diarrhea incidence in children, particularly those who are undernourished or suffering from severe infections. This newly published research is the first to show that an agricultural food-based approach can improve health in young children.

The study found a 42 percent reduction in the likelihood that children under the age of five who ate OSP within the past week would experience diarrhea. For children under three years of age who ate OSP, the likelihood of having diarrhea was reduced by more than half (52 percent). The OSP had an impact not only on reducing the incidence, but also the duration of diarrhea. For children who had diarrhea, eating OSP reduced the duration of the illness by more than 10 percent in children under five, and more than 25 percent in children aged under three. The children had all eaten OSP within the past week.

“The beta-carotene in OSP is converted into vitamin A the same day the OSP is eaten,” says Dr. Erick Boy, the Head of Nutrition at HarvestPlus, a global program to improve nutrition that funded the field research. “This vitamin A is used by the cells lining the gut to help form a barrier to invading germs. These cells are regenerated every few days, so cells that have been weakened due to lack of vitamin A are quickly replaced by healthy cells when there is enough vitamin A. It should be noted that access to clean water and sanitation, targeted immunization, and breastfeeding are also important in helping to prevent diarrhea.”

The study also found that there was greater impact in reducing diarrhea in children with educated mothers, who are likely better able to understand the health benefits of OSP, and also to change children's diets.

“Both vitamin A supplements and vitamin A-rich foods like orange sweet potato can provide sufficient vitamin A. From a public health perspective, they are complementary—neither alone is able to reach every child who needs vitamin A,” says Alan de Brauw, a Senior Research Fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute. “But vitamin A supplements can be expensive, as much as $2.71 per dose. Alleviating this deficiency worldwide through supplements alone would cost almost $3 billion per year. Using OSP to provide vitamin A is a fraction of that cost. Given the popularity of OSP—children especially love its taste—we think it’s a sustainable solution to improving nutrition and child health in many countries, complemented, of course, by supplementation where it is cost-effective.”

HarvestPlus’ principal donors are the UK Government; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the U.S. Government's Feed the Future initiative; the European Commission; and donors to the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health, of which HarvestPlus is a part.

Press Release Journal Article

Using Agriculture to Improve Child Health: Promoting Orange Sweet Potatoes Reduces Diarrhea

More About HarvestPlus

HarvestPlus leads a global effort to improve vitamin and mineral nutrition and public health by developing and deploying staple food crops that are rich in vitamins and minerals. We work with diverse partners in more than 40 countries. HarvestPlus is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH). CGIAR is a global agriculture research partnership for a food secure future. Its science is carried out by its 15 research centers in collaboration with hundreds of partner organizations. The HarvestPlus program is coordinated by two of these centers: the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

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Research Results: Orange Sweet Potato Reduces Diarrhea in Young Children
Farmers Speak: Orange Sweet Potato
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Community of Practice meets to discuss how to increase Sweetpotato Products in the African Market and Improve Nutrition

Jun 02 2015   |   By: christine-bukania   |   0   |  

The Community of Practice brings together professionals working on all levels of the sweetpotato value chain, as well as private sector players who are innovating processing and utilization of orange-fleshed sweetpotato for commercial products.

One of the participants, Lucas Mujuju is an entrepreneur in Chimoio region in Mozambique. His Zebra farm is diversifying from soymilk and yoghurt production to include sweetpotato juice and cookies whose ingredients are primarily soya and sweetpotato pulp. He was in Nairobi to share his experiences on getting started with commercializing sweetpotato products.

“In Chimoio, sweetpotato farmers had difficulties getting their sweetpotatoes to the market. Now, with our ability to process, they are sure that they have a ready market. We expect their incomes to improve, and because they grow the vitamin-A rich orange-fleshed sweetpotato, they will also improve their health and nutrition,” he said.

In Rwanda, the Rwanda Superfoods company is a successful enterprise built on the foundation of sweetpotato, and produces biscuits, bread and doughnuts.. The company has steadily grown its customer base in Kigali and other towns. The Community of Practice enabled Lucas to learn a few things about marketing his products from Rwanda Superfoods.

From Homa Bay County in Kenya, a manager of an agro-processing company, Gabriel Oduor, reported that this company, Organi Ltd, has increased the volume of sweetpotatoes it orders from farmers, which are processed into puree for sale to other manufacturers in Kenya. “We started out in Homa Bay, but we are now buying orange-fleshed sweetpotato from as far away as Busia. Farmers are guaranteed a price of Ksh. 14 per kilo at predictable intervals, and we believe this will drive production and benefits higher,” he says.

Members also discussed issues related to storage of sweetpotato roots for shelf-life extension, models for integrating agriculture and nutrition into health service delivery and enhancing sweetpotato value chains to improve markets for farmers.

This Community of Practice meeting was held under the umbrella of the Africa-wide Sweetpotato Sweetpotato for Profit and Health Initiative (SPHI). SPHI is a 10-year initiative led by the International Potato Centre (CIP), and it is expected to improve the lives of 10 million households by 2020 in 17 target countries. Launched in 2009, the project had already reached over 1 million households by the end of December 2014. One of the key intervention areas is improving the sweetpotato value chain by researching and implementing actions that will remove bottlenecks related to processing, marketing and utilization of sweetpotato products. The overall objective continues to be to develop the essential capacities, products, and methods to reposition sweetpotato in food economies to alleviate poverty and under-nutrition in Africa. Speaking at the start of the event, Jan Low, the SPHI leader, called on participants to think of innovative ways to fast-track the achievement of the SPHI targets.

The activities of the Community of Practice are in line with the regional nutrition strategy being pursued by the African Union. There is a huge momentum towards agriculture and nutrition on the continent. 2014 was declared the Year for Agriculture and Nutrition in Africa, and African Heads of State have recommitted to dedicating 10 percent of their national budgets to improving Agriculture, taking nutrition into account.

For more information please contact: Jan Low: or Christine Bukania:


The Sweetpotato for Profit and Health Initiative is (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.

The International Potato Center (known by its Spanish acronym CIP) is a research-for-development organization with a focus on potato, sweetpotato and Andean roots and tubers. CIP is dedicated to delivering sustainable science-based solutions to the pressing world issues of hunger, poverty, gender equity, climate change, and the preservation of our Earth’s fragile biodiversity and natural resources.

CIP is a member of the CGIAR Consortium, an international organization made up of 15 centers engaged in research for a food secure future. This global agriculture research partnership is dedicated to reducing rural poverty, increasing food security, improving human health and nutrition, and ensuring more sustainable management of natural resources, in close collaboration with hundreds of partner organizations, including national and regional research institutes, civil society organizations, academia and the private sector.

Seed – The starting block for improved food security, nutrition well-being and livelihoods in sub Saharan Africa

Jun 02 2015   |   By: margaret-mcewan   |   0   |  

Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) contributes to significant rates of blindness, disease and premature death in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Young children and pregnant or lactating women are particularly at risk of VAD. The Orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP) is an important source of energy and beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in the body. In fact, one medium-size sweetpotato provides enough to meet the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A for children and non-lactating women.

Sweetpotato is a critical food security crop in many countries, where it supplements households' diets when other staples fail. It has a short growing season and produces substantial yields even under unpredictable rainfall patterns. But the potential of this ‘wonder’ crop is yet to be adequately exploited. One of the most critical constraints facing sweetpotato production is a lack of sufficient and timely access to disease-free or ‘clean’ planting material.

Working with farmers to address seed systems challenges

In April 2014, more than 40 sweetpotato scientists and development practitioners, meeting in Entebbe, established the ‘community of practice’ to learn and exchange experiences on how these challenges related to sweetpotato seed system research and development. Open to both individuals and organizations, the members learn through an internet based “virtual community” as well as through face-to-face meetings such as the one that was recently concluded in Kigali. Back in their home countries the members work together with farmers to address two key challenges.

The first major challenge is how to ensure the survival of planting material in areas with extended dry periods; and second, how to avoid the build-up of pests and diseases as sweetpotato vines are re-cycled from one season to the next and leads to a reduction in root yields. For dry areas, a root based vine multiplication system is being tested and promoted in Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia. This is called Triple S (Sand, Storage and Sprouting). Normally, it is the task of women farmers to keep a small plot of sweetpotato irrigated through the dry season to ensure the survival of some vines for planting in the next season. Instead, with Triple S farmers can store small roots in sand during the dry season and then plant them out in small seed beds 6-8 weeks before the rains are expected. By watering the seed bed, the roots will sprout and provide cuttings to plant for root production.

Seed - The starting block for improved food security

The second major challenge is in areas where sweetpotato can be produced all year round and where there is high disease pressure – in particular sweetpotato virus diseases. This can lead to up to 98% yield loss in some varieties.

Low cost tunnel technology ensuring access to clean planting material

A low cost net tunnel technology has been developed and promoted among vine multipliers who sell sweetpotato seed to farmers. The net tunnels protect initial ‘clean’ seed stock from the whiteflies and aphids which are responsible for spreading sweetpotato virus diseases.

In Rwanda, this technology has been implemented successfully in Rulindo and Kamonyi Districts. Participants at the meeting visited these initiatives and held in-depth discussions about the procedures and commercial viability of these initiatives. The idea behind this exchange is to compare and adapt appropriate elements that ensure that seed systems are able to sustain long-term demand and supply of clean planting material.

Calling for increased collaboration between the public and private sectors

When the Director General Dr Jean Jacques Muhinda of the Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) opened the Sweetpotato Seed Systems Community of Practice meeting in Kigali on 28 April 2015, he commended the efforts of his institution, other national sweetpotato programmes, NGOs, and the International Potato Center, for their work on developing a clean seed system for sweetpotato. He concluded with strong encouragement to colleagues in the Community of Practice: “I urge you to benefit from this annual consultation and I trust that you will take back ideas to your own country communities to test and put into practice for the benefit of sweetpotato farmers across sub-Saharan Africa.”

This kind of encouragement, commitment and support from the public and private sectors will be critical in the development of effective sweetpotato seed systems. For members of the community of practice, collaboration not only helps to drive up demand, it also facilitates the implementation of effective delivery channels that will put 'clean’ seed in the hands of farmers when they require it.

Seed - The starting block for improved food security

Introducing a Healthy Eating Guide for Mothers, Babies and Children

Jun 01 2015   |   By: sara-fajardo   |   0   |  

Ghanaian mothers are the decision makers on food preparation and how to feed their families. Reaching mothers with information on the role micronutrients play in the health and wellbeing of their children is a critical step in helping turn the tide on VAD particularly in the most susceptible groups children under 5 and expectant and nursing mothers. The Essential Nutrition Actions (ENA): Healthy Eating for Mothers, Babies, and Children along with the companion counseling cards aim to do just that by serving as an all-purpose resource designed to equip Community Health Workers with technical knowledge and problem solving skills to help mothers during routine ante and post-natal clinic visits, understand the recommended healthy eating for pregnant women and mothers of newborns using orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP) and the importance of complementary feeding with vitamin A rich food for the whole household.

CHWs are taught to use a variety of educational best practices to help mothers absorb information from lectures to role-playing and hands on recipe preparation including weaning and baby food prepared with OFSP. The illustrated cards can be used as conversation starters even with women who are not literate. The colorful cards cover a range of topics aimed at supporting mothers and children from the “minus 9 months to 24 months” period. The cards include the steps an expectant mother should take to ensure a healthy pregnancy— antenatal visits, diverse diet, sleeping under bed nets, as well as how to grow OFSP, multi-mix feeding recipes which use at least three food groups, seasonal availability of different foods including sweetpotato roots and leaves, specific age-group needs, and healthy eating habits for infants and young children.

The program is designed to be used as part of Ghana’s Health Service’s Antenatal care program and is based on UNICEF’s Seven Essential Nutrition Actions (ENAs):

(1) Promotion of optimal nutrition for women; (2) Promotion of adequate intake of iron and folic acid and prevention and control of anemia for women and children; (3) Promotion of adequate intake of iodine by all members of the household; (4) Promotion of optimal breastfeeding during the first six months; (5) Promotion of optimal complementary feeding starting at 6 months with continued breastfeeding to 2 years of age and beyond; (6) Promotion of optimal nutritional care of sick and severely malnourished children; (7) Prevention of vitamin A deficiency in women and children.

By empowering mothers with information, skills, and the important role OFSP plays in a healthy diverse diet, CIP Ghana is helping to counteract VAD and build healthier futures for the next generation of Ghanaians.

Mpotompoto Reciepe Sweetpotato Juice Reciepe