Nane and Kofi Annan visit Sweetpotato fields in Ghana; show continued support for crop

Former Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, and his wife Nane Annan, continued to show their support for harnessing the power of the sweetpotato by visiting a sweetpotato trial field in Nyankapala, Ghana on August 14th.  The Annans have teamed up with the International Potato Center (CIP) and its partners to promote the development of orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP) cultivation in Ghana. CIP began operating in Ghana in 2010 and has set a goal of reaching an estimated 500,000 households there with resilient nutritious sweetpotato by 2020.

The highly productive climate smart sweetpotato has tremendous potential to contribute to Ghana’s agriculture development— its relatively low entry cost for producers coupled with harvests 3 to 4 times a year provide ample opportunities for employment. Increased consumption of OFSP has also been shown to help combat micronutrient deficiency and hidden hunger a critical boon for the overall health of women and children. The nutritious crop is rich in energy, nutrients and dietary fiber, and is a potent source of beta-carotene a precursor of Vitamin A. Its leaves can be used as leafy greens, while both roots and foliage can be used as animal feed.

OFSP vine multiplier, Dauda Zakaria, shared his story with the Annans during their visit. His business has grown from .5 acres to 1.5 since he began working with OFSP in 2013. Key to his success have been awareness raising campaigns through community radio broadcasts that have been instrumental in helping to increase demand for OFSP and drive customers to his business. “The radio programs opened a window for (the) sale of vines at community markets,” Zakaria says. “Any time I want to take vines to the market, I make (an) announcement on the local radio and buyers rush on me and finish (my) vines even before the market opens.” CIP and its partner the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research-Savannah Agricultural Research Institute (CSIR-SARI) have also helped to facilitate market linkages through Durbars (community meetings) at local markets which brought buyers together. “The Durbars created an avenue for me to sell vines and make contacts with buyers such as farmers, food vendors, caterers, restaurants and farmer organizations,” Zakaria says.

The field visit was followed up with a luncheon featuring OFSP and a stakeholder discussion dedicated to mapping out a strategy to “encourage the adoption of OFSP for both health and wealth.” More than 30 organizations including government ministries and local and international entities were invited to participate.

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and his wife Nane sample products made with OFSP in Ghana. Photo Credit Erna Abidin (CIP-Ghana)
Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and his wife Nane sample products made with OFSP in Ghana. Photo Credit Erna Abidin (CIP-Ghana)

“The high vitamin A content of sweetpotatoes is of high value to children and young infants, particularly in West Africa and in Ghana,” Nane Annan said.  “Offering vocational training to mothers and youth and making use of marginal lands is a great model for the region.”