Introduction to new breeding line of sweet potato
- Introduction to new breeding line of sweet potato
This is a continuation to my previous entry.
The next generation
To encourage widespread adoption, plant breeders at the International
potato center (Kenya)-www.uneca.org/estnet/African_community/ken.html.
-are working with VITAA partner agencies to introduce 42 improved
orange-fleshed breed lines. `These are the first in a series of new
sweet potatoes to emerge from a six year,multi-million dollar breeding
program,' says CIP Director ,Hubert Zandstra, and should be
significantly better than the first generation of VITAA clones that
were introduced by CIP researchers during the early 1990s.'' These
early orange-fleshed materials were drawn largely from gene bank
holdings held in trust by the potato center under the auspices of FAO
(food and agricultural organisation-U.N).
But will Africa consumers accept the new varieties? To find out, VITAA
partner from Kenya Agricultural Research Institute
(KARI)-http://www.kari.org/, the international center for research of
women (ICRW)-www.icrw.org/', and CIP field-tested several orange
fleshed plant types in the late 1990's and found that African women
would accept them in place of the white-fleshed sweet potatoes once
they recognized their nutritional benefites.The ICRW studies also
showed that children liked the sweet taste.
ICRW researcher concluded that adding as little as 100grams of
orange sweet potatoes to the daily diet could eliminate or
significantly reduce vitamin A deficiency in children and their
mothers. A major bioefficacy study conducted in South Africa's Medical
Research council earlier this year breached similar conclusion.
AITAA currently working with collaborating agencies in Ethiopia,
Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda Each of
these countries is working hard to introduce orange-fleshed varieties,
but effort are probably most advanced in Uganda, where a host of
regional organizations and NGOs are promoting the adaptation of the
new VITAA sweet potatoes at the community level.
Queen of Buganda backing the initiative
One of the reasons that VITAA-www.cipotato.org/vitaa/ is doing well
in Uganda,'' says agronomist Fina Opio, is that Nnaabagereka, the wife
of the ruler of Bugada Uganda's largest traditional kingdom-is
encouraging her subjects to grow the VITAA verities.''
Opio, who chairs the VITAA steering committee, notes that the Queen is
held in high esteem by her subject and plays a pivotal role in
mobilizing development efforts, Last year, early 40,000 Ugandan
farmers received samples of improved orange-fleshed sweet potatoes for
planting through the Buganda Cultural and Development Foundation, a
royal NGO associated with VITAA.
Opio adds that similar efforts are being made by the James Arawata
Foundation (JAF), a local NGO that helps refugees in war-torn district
in the northern part of the country. During lullsin the fighting, she
says, farmers move from behind to defensive perimeter of the camps to
attend to their fields. The farmers, who normally grow crops like
cassava and millet, prefer sweet potato because it matures quickly and
requires little weed.
Moreover, for reasons that are not entirely understood, rebel troops
usually raid cassava fields and leave sweet potato unharmed.
There also exists more youths involved in Potato farming, and even
some major towns( urban dwelings) are dotted with potato farms- this
is a challenge to the Kenyan urban youths also to embrace this idea.
The contribution of orange-fleshed sweet potato to the nutrition of
malnourished children and pregnant mothers In displacement camps
cannot be over-emphasized, says local officials. According to recent
reports, the situation in the camps is so serious that district
authorities are using JAF to speed up its deliveries.
``What we're seeing is a groundswell of support for this common
sense agricultural approach to a major public health problem,'' says
economist Joachim von Braun, director general of the Washington
D.C.-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
An impact case study conducted by economics working at Michigan State
University and CIP, von Braun notes, suggests that orange fleshed
sweet potatoes production is already high, full adoption of orange
fleshed sweet potatoes could resolve vitamin A deficiency completely
for 85 to 95 per cent of those children most at risk, in addition to
sign cant benefits for childbearing women
Even in countries that are not major sweet potato producers, such as
Ethiopia, a third of the population would enjoy partial benefits from
enhance beta-carotene intake as a result switching from white to
Fortication of food crops such as sweet potatoes with higher levels of
micronutrients a process known as biofortification is not a silver
bullet "cautions von Braun it can be powerful tool, however and we are
optimistic that it will benefit large numbers of people in the years
IFPRI and sister centre , the international Centre for Tropical
Agriculture, head up new CGIAR initiative known as Harvest plus which
is working to fortify major developing country staples such as beans ,
cassava, maize, rice wheat and sweet potatoes
The VITAA experience serves as a model for these effects, providing
concrete evidence of the effectiveness of food based approaches in
tackling, micronutrient malnutrition "says Von Braun.
Story gathered courtesy of F.A.O (food and Agricultural
KENNEDY .O. OWINO
ARTIST,ENTERTAINER, SOCIAL WORKER, SOCIAL CHANGE ACTIVIST.
NAFSI AFRIKA ACROBATS
BOX 21255 00505, NAIROBI, KENYA
TEL: +254 .2. 576173
CELL: +254 723 568 251,
EMAIL: nafsiafricaacro@ yahoo.com
Website: www.nafsiafriacroba ts.org