An estimated 32% of the SSA population suffers from vitamin A deficiency; a condition that can lead to blindness, disease, and premature death. The orange-fleshed varieties of sweetpotato contain high levels of β-carotene (a precursor to vitamin A), but local dietary preferences have previously tended towards the more common paler-fleshed sweetpotato. The β-carotene-rich varieties form the focal point of CIP’s regional sweetpotato breeding program, which promotes and improves varieties that are resistant to disease and environmental stresses, while increasing dry matter to make them more palatable.
The Center brought together researchers from across six countries to put together the new catalogue, which provides detailed information on the 29 varieties currently proving to be the most popular in the region. “There was a need for documented information about the successful or promising varieties,” says Mwanga. “This provides valuable information for donors, policy and decision makers, nutritionists, NGO’s, training institutes, and breeders in areas where varieties are needed but not tested yet. And because of its simple format, it’s also a helpful advocacy tool to help demystify the notion that OFSP are not acceptable in Africa”
Most of the varieties have already been successfully released in at least one country and are being grown and eaten by farmers. Three were used by the Harvest Plus – Reaching End Users project in Uganda to test models for successfully reaching communities with biofortified crops. In Uganda and Tanzania vines from some selected varieties also are being sold for incomes. Other varieties are important parents in local African breeding and testing programs. Information on the current status of each variety is presented in a table at the end of the catalogue.
Produced in collaboration with sweetpotato scientists from the Mikocheni Agricultural Research Institute (MARI) in Tanzania, National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI) in Uganda, Crops Research Institute in Ghana, and the Agricultural Research Council (ARC-VOPI) in South Africa, the catalogue lays out comprehensive information for each variety including photographs, detailed descriptions (morphological characteristics), and agronomic attributes such as yield, adaptability, and resistance to pests and disease. Since taste and preferences are important when trying to change dietary patterns, users can see how each variety performs in terms of its relative attractions for consumers, nutritional content, and processing qualities.
“We were keen to produce information that was educative, could reach a wide audience, and be easily used without scientific jargon,” says Mwanga.
With many African countries needing financial support to promote and disseminate OFSP to their vulnerable communities, the catalogue is expected to be useful in efforts to lobby donors and African country governments for funding.
Copies of the catalogue and information on how to obtain varieties are available from CIP’s regional office for Sub-Saharan Africa in Nairobi, Kenya (firstname.lastname@example.org) or CIP Liaison office in Uganda (email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org).