Celebrating Five Years of Progress in Sweetpotato Research for Development in Sub-Saharan Africa

The International Potato Center (CIP) hosted the 5th Annual Technical Meeting for the Sweetpotato for Profit and Health Initiative (SPHI) at the Jacaranda Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya from 9-11 September 2014. Over 80 participants from ten sub-Saharan Africa countries and from Peru, USA and Belgium attended the 3 day meeting.

The meeting captured the progress made by 16 sweetpotato projects in the Sub-Saharan Africa region and celebrated the end of the first five year phase of SPHI – “Proving the Potential”. A series of research findings were presented at this meeting that demonstrated considerable progress being made to address the bottlenecks that impede sweetpotato’s ability to contribute its full potential toward reducing food insecurity and malnutrition.

The SPHI family celebrates 5 years of successful OFSP projects in sub-Saharan Africa
Credit: Mike Nyaga

The crown jewel of the sweetpotato value chain projects is the Sweetpotato Action for Security and Health in Africa (SASHA) Project, which just completed its first five year phase. The meeting reflected on the successes of the first phase of SASHA and celebrated the launch of the second five year phase of this initiative.

“Today we are celebrating the fact that our research foundation project – the Sweetpotato Action for Security and Health in Africa project – which was funded five years ago by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been renewed for a second five year phase,” said SPHI Leader and SASHA Project Manager Jan Low.

OFSP was celebrated in a colorful way at the 3 day conference culminating in the OFSP exhibition
to showcase OFSP projects from sub-Saharan Africa over the last 5 years
Credit: S. Quinn, CIP

The Sweetpotato Action for Security and Health in Africa (SASHA) is a ten year project designed to improve the food security and livelihoods of poor families in Sub-Saharan Africa by exploiting the untapped potential of sweetpotato. It seeks to develop the essential capacities, products, and methods to reposition sweetpotato in food economies of Sub-Saharan African countries to alleviate poverty and undernutrition, particularly among poor women and children.

SPHI has a significant role in CIP’s 10 year strategic and corporate plan. SPHI’s multi-stakeholder partnership program has a goal of reaching 10 million households across 17 Sub-Saharan Africa countries by 2020 to achieve a widespread uptake of sweetpotato that will significantly reduce malnutrition among children under the age of five. This amounts to two-thirds of CIP’s overall goal for nutritious, resilient sweetpotato by 2023.

Barbara Wells, Director General of CIP discusses OFSP products with Benjamin Rakotoarisoa,
Sweetpotato Specialist with CIP in Momzabique
Credit: S. Quinn, CIP

As said by CIP Director General Barbara Wells, “Today I recommit CIP toward enabling at least 15 million households to improve the quality of their diets and raise their crop incomes over the next 10 years in countries with micronutrient deficiencies. We will reach this goal by increasing the production and utilization of nutritious sweetpotato, starting with biofortified OFSP.”

The meeting included a half-day exhibition entitled ‘Celebrating Five Years of Progress in Sweetpotato Research for Development’ with 20 booths full of information about progress in different countries and projects. “As one walks around the exhibit booths here, it becomes abundantly clear that the success of Orange-fleshed Sweetpotato is the result of a concerted effort that spans basic research through development with the ultimate beneficiary being the smallholder farmer and the communities where they live,” said CIP Director General, Barbara Wells. “The story of orange fleshed sweetpotato is truly inspiring.”

CIP staff members discuss OFSP products with Antonio, manager of Innovative Ingredient Solutions
who showcased his range of OFSP products at the exhibition
Credit: S. Quinn, CIP

Exhibits displayed evidence of progress made in breeding, seed systems research, marketing and product development. Countries represented include Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Ghana, and Nigeria. Other organizations participating in the event include HarvestPlus, Helen Keller International, Farm Concern International, Innovative Ingredient Solutions, the Kenya Horticulture Competitiveness Project and research programs from many countries.

Special guests at the exhibition included: Dr. Barbara Wells, Director General, CIP; Dr. Hans Adu-Dapaah, Chairperson of the SPHI and Director of the Crops Research Institute in Ghana; Dr. Jean Jacques Mbonigaba Muhinda, Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB) Director General; Dr. Jim Lorenzen, Program Officer for the SASHA project, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Dr. Regina Kapinga, Program Officer for the Reaching Agents of Change (RAC) Project, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the other members of the SPHI Executive Steering Committee.

Please visit the CIP SSA Flickr site to see the colourful images from the 3 day meeting and the exhibition.

For more information on the program and to learn more about orange fleshed sweetpotato in Africa please visit the International Potato Center, the Sweetpotato Action for Security and Health in Africa (SASHA) project and the Sweetpotato for Profit & Health Initiative (SPHI) and the Sweetpotato Knowledge Portal.

Visit the CIP website to read more about the launch of the CIP Corporate Strategy and to review the CIP strategy on Resilient Nutritious Sweetpotato and Seed Potato for Africa.