Giving thanks to the Vitamin A in sweetpotato

Getting this sweet crop to the 250,000 to 500,000 preschool children who go blind annually from VAD is vital, particularly as two-thirds of them are likely to die within a year if the VAD is left unattended. The International Potato Center (CIP) project — Sweetpotato Action for Security and Health in Africa (SASHA) — leverages the sweetpotatoes’ potential to significantly improve the nutrition, incomes, and food production of farming families in sub-Saharan Africa, especially among impoverished women and children. The project now aims to incorporate this Vitamin A-rich crop into local menus. SASHA is promoting orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP) varieties that are rich in pro-vitamin A by distributing OFSP recipes at Pick n Pay supermarket’s in Mozambique.

“It is expected that 51 new Pick n Pay groceries stores will open across Mozambique in five years . If we can put sweetpotato in these markets we can really make a difference with this crop and increase farmers’ incomes. We are also working with the best restaurants and hotels to include sweetpotato in their menu,” says Maria Andrade, Sweetpotato Breeder & Seed Systems Specialist.

Sweetpotato is the third most important food crop in East Africa in terms of production and the fourth most important in Southern Africa. It can produce better yields in poor conditions with fewer inputs and less labor than other staples, making it particularly suitable for households threatened by migration, civil disorder, or diseases such as AIDS. In addition, the new 15 drought tolerant varieties released in Mozambique are suitable for disaster mitigation such as drought. Yet the potential of sweetpotato to address these challenges is largely untapped due to a lack of investment to improve yields, market potential, and its negative perception as a poor person’s food.

SASHA is part of a 10-year, multi-donor Sweetpotato for Profit and Health Initiative (SPHI), which seeks to reduce child malnutrition and improve smallholder incomes and livelihoods through greater awareness, expanded market opportunities, and the diversified use of sweetpotato in Sub-Saharan Africa. It’s potential for sweetening the lives of Africa’s poor is widely recognized. SPHI is a multi-donor, multi-partner initiative that is expected to improve lives for 10 million Sub-Saharan households.

sweetpotato, Vitamin