International Potato Center (CIP) Director General Dr. Barbara Wells recently paid a courtesy call to former UN Secretary-General Mr. Kofi Annan and his wife Mrs. Nane Annan at their home in Accra, Ghana. The meeting, held on August 1, aimed to introduce Dr. Tom van Mourik, CIP Country Manager for Ghana and Project Manager for a new orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP) project—Orange: Healthy Gold for Ghana. They also deliberated on fundraising opportunities for going to scale with OFSP through the new project.
Mr. and Mrs. Annan became OFSP ambassadors in Ghana several years ago, after learning more about the crop’s health benefits. At a past event held in 2016 at CIP headquarters in Lima, Peru, Mrs. Annan stated why she was advocating for OFSP: “I learned how OFSP can help the most vulnerable of all—pregnant women, new mothers and children. OFSP can grow in poor soils, produce good yields in a short growing period even under changing weather patterns—and improve revenues along the value chain.”
During the meeting in Accra, Dr. Wells noted van Mourik would bring the necessary focus to the new project and, with support, will be able to successfully develop the partnerships and raise the necessary funds to implement the project.
“By now, after our pilot phase (2014-2017), we should be scaling the benefits of OFSP to many more vulnerable people. This project should help us reach at least 500,000 households in Ghana by 2022,” said Kofi Annan as he welcomed van Mourik to the team.
The project will entail a diverse set of interventions that will be sustained and expanded through integration into public sector programs and private sector investments with the ultimate goal to expand to other countries in West Africa. It is envisioned there will be at least 750,000 additional indirect beneficiaries by 2022.
To start off activities under the project, CIP has invested seed money awarded through the 2016 Al-Sumait prize, for work in introducing Vitamin A rich OFSP to 2.8 million households in sub-Saharan African (SSA). The investment by CIP is in anticipation of new funding with partners.
“Our decision to reinvest the Al-Sumait prize money in SSA, and specifically Ghana, is to drive impact through scaling. We have had very good results in Ghana but at a pilot scale.
Vitamin A deficiency rates are still high; affecting seven out of ten children in Ghana. We see great agri-business opportunities along the value chain with potential for improving nutrition, reducing childhood blindness and improving livelihoods through income creation opportunities. School feeding programs and health care services are other great entry points with opportunities for partnerships,” noted Dr. Wells. She was accompanied by a delegation from CIP comprising van Mourik; Pietro Turilli, Director of Resource Mobilization, Partnerships and Communications; Adiel Mbabu, Regional Director for SSA; Ted Carey, Senior Sweetpotato Breeder; Erna Abidin, Seed Systems Scientist; and Vivian Atakos, Communications Specialist, SSA.
The new project builds on successes from an earlier initiative: Jumpstarting OFSP through diversified markets in West Africa, which was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The project evaluated the potential for simultaneously developing value chains for OFSP and maximizing nutritional benefits to vulnerable populations. Different structured and informal markets were targeted at pilot sites across Ghana, Nigeria and Burkina Faso, where sweetpotato varied in importance in the farming and food systems.