Africa’s orange-fleshed sweetpotato evangelist

Dr. Maria Andrade, senior sweetpotato breeder for Southern Africa and Asia at the International Potato Center, has over 30 years’ experience in technology transfer & breeding systems. Through her work with the resilient and nutritious orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP), she is on course to save millions of lives from vitamin A deficiency.

Based in Mozambique, she spoke to South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) reporter Sarah Kimani on the importance of her work breeding and promoting the OFSP.

At the time she started working with OFSP in Mozambique, 69% of Mozambicans suffered vitamin A deficiency. This is in part because they only ate white- and yellow-fleshed sweetpotatoes, rather than orange-fleshed varieties that are rich in beta-carotene, which the body turns into vitamin A.

After getting OFSP varieties released in Mozambique, Dr. Andrade knew very well that more had to be done to promote them, since the crop was associated with poor people. “When I came to the district where I started working, people eating sweetpotato had to hide it,” she said.

20 years later, the orange-fleshed sweetpotato has found its way to the dining tables in bread, cakes and many other forms in 14 countries in Africa. This has been possible thanks the enhancement of sweetpotato breeding programs in Africa, which have released dozens of nutritious, drought and pest tolerant varieties. Sweetpotato is no longer a poor man’s food but a necessary food to end global hunger by 2030.

“Today, the government in Mozambique regards the sweetpotato as one of the priority crops for food security” Dr. Andrade said. This transformation is in part a result of her passion for contributing to the continent and making a difference in people’s lives.

 “As long as you do agriculture, you’re an evangelist. Your work is to feed the world,” she concluded.

Dr. Andrade is a co-recipient of the 2016 World Food Prize for her work with OFSP.

Watch her interview on SABC News below: Meet the orange-fleshed sweetpotato evangelist

Additional reading:
Take a bite out of Maria Andrade

Crosspost prepared by Nathan Ronoh - Communications Intern - CIP SSA
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