Sweet potatoes contribute to nutrition
by Melanie Lopez, World Vision
Lack of vitamin A is a public health issue in more than half of all countries. It is especially severe in Africa, where an estimated 32 percent of preschool-aged children are vitamin A deficient.
The sweet potato is an important food crop in developing countries, but the common white African varieties do not contain vitamin A. Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes (OFSP), on the other hand, are rich in vitamin A.
Ibyiringiro, which means “hope” in Kinyarwanda, is a five-year project funded by USAID/PEPFAR that aims to ensure that high quality, sustainable, comprehensive services are improved for people living with HIV (PLWHIV) and orphans and vulnerable children in Rwanda. A consortium led by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) that includes World Vision, AFRICARE, ACDI/VOCA, Caritas Kibuyi, and the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation implements the project in 22 districts of the country.
The Ibyiringiro staff linked PLWHIV cooperatives with Rwanda agriculture extensionists to educate smallholder farmers in eastern Rwanda and their communities about these nutritious varieties. Vines were provided to these families. Not only do the OFSPs provide nutritional benefits, they are used as part of an income generating scheme for the cooperative members who are also part of Saving and Internal Lending Community groups.
The technology was used in COPASHANYA cooperative of Bugesera district. After harvesting OFSP, they made pancakes that are very popular at the market, using local materials. With the use of transparent buckets, these products are displayed attractively to boost sales.
A total of 133 members of cooperatives received OFSP vines (104 females and 29 males), 40 of whom (35 women and five men) were involved in making and selling OFSP products. Because of training provided by Ibyiringiro staff on the high content of vitamin A in OFSP, all members/ families want to have vines now. OFSP is now included in farmer field schools as a strategy of vine multiplication and shared with all cooperative members/ Ibyiringiro beneficiaries.
World Vision is negotiating with a factory in the area that plans to buy OFSP tubes from the cooperative (to increase their income). Looking ahead, they would like to provide more OFSP vines to other households.