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ISHS Acta Horticulturae 921: XXVIII International Horticultural Congress on Science and Horticulture for People (IHC2010): International Symposium on Horticulture for Development

UNLEASHING THE POTENTIAL OF SWEET POTATO TO COMBAT POVERTY AND MALNUTRITION IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA THROUGH A COMPREHENSIVE INITIATIVE

Author:   J.W. Low
Keywords:   vitamin A deficiency, nutrition, health, virus, weevil, root crops, SASHA
DOI:   10.17660/ActaHortic.2011.921.19
Abstract:
Sweet potato, covering 3.4 million ha with an estimated production of 14.1 million tons in 2009, is one of three widely grown root and tuber crops in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Predominantly grown in small plots, it is known as a food for the poor, grown mainly by women. While the area planted to maize in SSA is 9 times greater than to sweet potato, the latter is expanding faster than any other major food crop in SSA. Its high energy output per unit land area, ability to produce relatively good yields under marginal conditions, flexible planting and harvesting times, and good yield response to better management are factors underlying its expansion in SSA, where decreasing land holding size, declining soil fertility, and changing climate patterns are driving change. Sweet potato is considered a staple food in some SSA countries, and a horticultural crop in others. However, investment in sweet potato relative to other food staples and horticultural crops has been low.
In October 2010, the International Potato Center launched a ten-year Sweet potato for Profit and Health Initiative resulting from a seven months of stakeholder consultative process to identify the constraints blocking the full exploitation of sweet potato and develop interventions in breeding, propagation and dissemination of healthy planting material, crop management, human nutrition, and marketing. The Initiative’s vision is to reposition sweet potatoes in African food economies, particularly in expanding urban markets, to reduce child malnutrition and improve smallholder incomes. It brings together over 30 partner organizations seeking to positively affect the lives of 10 million African families in 10 years and will establish support platforms in three sub-regions to enable the creation of a vibrant community of practice. The paper describes proposed strategies for addressing the major constraints and details on key components to be undertaken during the first five year phase.

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