Kenya: Orange-fleshed sweet potato

The Rome-based Global Crop Diversity Trust and the International Potato Center (CIP) in Peru are finalizing a US$1 million five-year renewable grant to support, maintain, conserve, and make available sweet potato varieties.

WHY?
Sweet potatoes grow in marginal conditions, requiring little labor and chemical fertilizers. It is a cheap, nutritious solution for developing countries needing to grow more food on less area for rapidly multiplying populations.

“Conserving available farmers’ varieties is urgent for exploitation for traits such as drought tolerance in the face of climate change,” Dr. Robert Mwanga a sweet potato breeder for sub-Saharan Africa at CIP.

A SUPER FOOD
The orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are a particularly important source of beta-carotene, carbohydrates, fiber, and an inexpensive source of vitamin A. Research shows that just 250 grams of the orange-fleshed sweet potatoes can provide the recommended daily requirement for vitamin A. This is particularly important in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, where Vitamin A deficiency is a leading cause of blindness and premature death among pregnant women and children under five. With its cocktail of benefits – especially for women and children, who are most vulnerable to malnutrition, disease and hunger – it is important to initiate projects to enhance farmers’ uptake and adoption of orange fleshed sweet potato technologies.

DIFFERENT COLOURS=DIFFERENT HEALTH BENEFITS
Varieties exist with a wide range of skin and flesh color, from white to yellow-orange to deep purple-fleshed roots. The various colours are a rich source of Anthocyanins, which are compounds that have medicinal value as Anti-oxidants and Cancer Preventing Agents.

INCOME DIVERSIFICATION
Patrick Makoha, the Secretary for Siwongo Drainage and Irrigation Self-help Group, Busia, Kenya started multiplying orange fleshed sweet potato vines from less than a quarter acre, which have expanded to seven acres in three years. He earns US$ 293.5 a month from the sale of the potatoes and US$ 195.7 monthly from the sale of vines. Multiplication and distribution of clean planting materials or vines has many levels. It involves individual farmers, farmer groups that manage secondary multiplication sites, national agricultural research institutes, and supply-side partners such as extension and non-governmental organization staff that do the monitoring. So far, about 10,000 farmers across the five countries- Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda- have been reached by the project with planting materials and training on the technologies.

 A DELICIOUS SNACK
In Rwanda, the nutritional value of the orange-fleshed sweet potato has gotten non-governmental organizations working with people living with HIV/AIDS to urge their clients to grow and consume this vegetable.

To read more about this interesting story, go to: http://www.freshplaza.com/news_detail.asp?id=91228

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A Sweet and Orange Solution for Vitamin Deficiency – Developing Countries Take Action Against Lifestyle Diseases

As announced this year by the UN, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension are largely “forgotten” issue in developing countries. These countries show a higher prevalence of such ailments when compared to developed countries (80% of cases are in the developing world). Experts say that this will be the epidemic facing developing nations in the 21st century, greater than HIV in the 20th century, if trends are not combated in the near future.

In their feature, the BBC World Service program talks about the Botswana initiative to show the reality of NCDs in the developing world and the proactive action plan being put in place by schools to reverse the current trends. The aim is to increase awareness in children and youth about the importance of healthy eating, active lifestyle, and health benefit of specific foods. Scientists have discovered that upon introducing African families to the orange sweet potatoes, as an alternative to the white or pale yellow sweet potato typically grown in Africa, Vitamin A intake in women and children doubled. Vitamin A is essential in preventing blindness and supporting the immune system. A deficiency of this essential nutrient is very prevalent in Africa, causing many children to go blind prior to starting school, as well as increasing their susceptibility to diarrhea and respiratory illnesses. These are just some of the key points highlighted in this short presentation.

To learn more about this terrific proactive initiative, go to:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p00lrkcb/Health_Check_30_11_2011/

Our organization, Cki is taking part in the youth awareness movement with its project in Ghana where we have set up a school garden club. The children are already growing a large variety of vegetable and we will soon start an education program on the importance of food diversity, good nutrition, and healthy lifestyle.

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The orange sweet potato is common in North America and is much higher in Vitamin D than it's white or pale yellow cousin that is normally grown in Africa. However, families in Africa who were given this orange sweet potato to grow were able to significantly increase their Vitamin D intake, protecting themselves from blindness and strengthening their immune system