Minister for Food and Agriculture, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto has noted that even though sweet potato is not list listed as a food security crop in the Food and Agricultural Sector Development Policy (FASDEP II), a lot of attention is being given to the promotion of the crop to address food and nutrition security.
Sweet potato, he observed, is gaining roots in the agricultural sector owing to the derived benefits in nutrition and income generation.
In a speech read on his behalf at a dissemination workshop to conclude a three-year pilot on sustainable and inclusive market-driven approaches for orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) in three West-African countries- Ghana, Nigeria and Burkina Faso, the Minister noted that in recent times, micronutrient deficiency has been a serious health problem in the country and other sub-Saharan African countries.
“Unlike wasting, this condition is often difficult to recognise and is thus referred to as Hidden Hunger”, he added.
OFSP is a rich source of dietary vitamin A, a required nutrient that is often deficient, particularly in the diets of under five years of age children and lactating women. Dr. Afriyie Akoto observed that just 100 gramms of OFSP meets the daily vitamin A needs of a young child and that OFSP can significantly reduce vitamin A deficiency among vulnerable populations at the community level.
The nutritional value of OFSP is not widely recognized, so it is not sought after by consumers and marketers. This has held back its potential to contribute to combating vitamin A deficiency, the Minister stated.
He therefore commended the International Potato Center (CIP) and all development partners and donors for the effort and gains chalked through the 3-year pilot “Jumpstarting Orange-Fleshed Sweet potato project in Ghana”.
The Minister noted that during its implementation, Kofi Annan and wife, Nene, took keen interest in the potential of OFSP to contributing to both the health and wealth in the country. He promised government’s support in the dissemination of OFSP and ensure demand to stimulate its production, ensuring profits for producers, and nutritional benefits for the large consumers, including women and children.
Farmers and processors are being sensitized by the Women in Agriculture Directorate of MOFA (WIAD) on the benefits of OFSP to address malnutrition, he added. He promised his Ministry’s strengthening linkages between WIAD and CSIR (Food Research Institute) to diversify the utilization of sweet potato and MOFA will continue to support CSIR-FRI to develop varied products that meets consumer demand.
Country Manager, CIP, Edward Carey noted that for years, sweet potato was neglected in sub-Saharan Africa as an orphan, bulky and perishable crop. But its importance over the years is growing with Nigeria among the largest producers.
He said globally sweet potato is increasingly recognized as healthy food and demand is growing both for fresh, frozen and as an ingredient. Companies are investing, he noted. He concluded by saying there are large opportunities for scaling sweet potato in Ghana to the benefit of rural and urban, poor and well-to-do.