Harnessing the sweetpotato’s potential

Adelina Francisco 33y is preparing orange flesh sweet potatoes and feeds the children: Maria Pires 2 y (yellow/blue), Victorino Luis, 5 y (black), Amelia Lopes 5 y (pink), Betinho Arnaldo 5 y (yellow).<br /> ---Visit of the potato plot and home of DVM Jeremias Ligogolo, 28 y in Mahave. He grows the variety Cecilia that has recently been cut to transport to Mussorizo for distribution to the people affected by the cyclone Idai. Cyclone Idai is the worst tropical storm on record to affect Southern Africa. It made landfall on March 13, 2019 and tore through Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe resulting in more than 2 billion USD in damages. For the past two decades the CIP Mozambique team has been working to help mitigate the impact of natural disasters with climate resilient varieties of orange-fleshed sweetpotato. Fast growing sweetpotato is the ideal crop to jump food security in the aftermath of a major disaster. After two months you can eat the leaves and after three months the roots can be consumed.

Sweetpotatoes can be grown on marginal land with few inputs, and orange-fleshed varieties can make a major contribution to the diets of people at risk for malnutrition. With two billion people suffering poor nutrition globally and 3.1 million child deaths attributable to micronutrient deficiencies, there is an urgent need to get nutritious crops like orange-fleshed sweetpotato to more people in Africa and Asia.

The book chapter “Improving the breeding, cultivation and use of sweetpotato in Africa,” written by scientists Putri Ernawati Abidin and Edward Carey, offers useful insight into the state of sweetpotato breeding and dissemination. Focusing on Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria and  Burkina Faso, Abidin and Carey draw from their combined decades of experience in sweetpotato breeding and project management as part of their work with the International Potato Center.

The authors present a detailed overview of sweetpotato in Africa, from breeding and seed systems to commercialization and marketing, and they offer some possible paths for future research trends.

The chapter is contained in the book “Achieving sustainable cultivation of potatoes, Volume 1: Breeding improved varieties,” edited by Gefu Wang-Pruski and published by Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing Limited.

Consult the chapter