Sweetpotato for Profit and Health Initiative

From September 29-October 1, eHealth Africa was invited to participate in the 6th Annual Technical Meetings for the Sweetpotato for Profit and Health Initiative (SPHI) held in Kigali, Rwanda. eHA was represented by Dr. Sarma Mallubhotla, Program Manager for Health, Nutrition and Agriculture. 

Dr. Mallubhotla celebrating Nigeria's Independence Day & Promoting Orange-fleshed Sweetpotato in Kigali's SPHI Exhibition

Launched in October 2009, SPHI is a 10-year, multi-donor effort that seeks to reduce child malnutrition and improve smallholder incomes through the effective production and expanded use of orange-fleshed sweetpotatoes (OFSPs) in sub-Saharan Africa. By 2020, the initiative aims to improve the lives of 10 million African households, achieving an annual value of $241 million in additional production in 17 African countries.

Malnutrition contributes to half of all deaths of children under five. When children don’t have the right nutrients in their diets, such as vitamin A or zinc, they struggle to fight off common diseases like diarrhea and pneumonia. Poor nutrition has lifelong consequences for physical and mental health. According to the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), the role of agriculture in Africa’s development is enormous.

The meetings began with an opening address by the Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, Honorable Geraldine Mukesimana, Republic of Rwanda. A major goal of this meeting was to have representative participation by scientists and practitioners throughout Sub Saharan Africa (SSA), as well as international academic institutes, NGOs and donors. The meetings drew more than 100 participants from 14 countries.  

Malnutrition contributes to half of all deaths of children under five.

“eHA’s work in health and nutrition will be two-pronged,” said eHA’s Dr. Mallubhotla. “We will be making real-time, accurate data available to all stakeholders, and working on the ground in partnership with International Development partners, as well as national and state governments to create sustainable interventions & monitoring tools that clearly demonstrate improvement in the health and nutritional status of children and women.”

Recently CIP and eHA signed a collaborative agreement to work on agriculture & food-based “OFSP projects” in the SSA region. Achieving food and nutrition security is an essential tool for fighting poverty. Biofortified crops such as OFSP with better agronomy can lead to better nutrition and sustainable livelihoods. 

Dr. Mallubhotla with Dr. Barbara Wells, Director General-CIP, and Dr. Ted Carey, Senior Scientist & Regional Sweetpotato Breeder (Ghana Sweetpotato Support Platform).

From the CIP Ghana sweetpotato support platform, Dr. Ted Carey & Dr. Erna Abidin presented their team’s research for development work: “Jumpstarting OFSP In West Africa Through Diversified Markets.” Their project highlighted sustainable and inclusive market-driven approaches for OFSP to increase smallholder incomes and improve health through consumption of Vitamin A rich OFSP, and to reach millions of households, especially women and children in Ghana, Nigeria and Burkina Faso.

Dr. Olapeju Phorbee, CIP Country Representative (Nigeria) showcased her collaborative project work on “OFSP In The School Feeding Program Of Osun State, Nigeria.” She emphasized the need for demand creation for nutritious OFSP. Dr. Jude Njoku, Agronomist from National Root Crops Research Institute in Umudike, Nigeria, discussed the role of decentralized vine multipliers (DVMs) and quality declared planting materials in increasing the growth and yield of OFSP varieties in Nigeria. According to Dr. Njoku, “Farmers should be sensitized on the importance of generating high-quality planting materials [for OFSP production].”  

CIP & eHA are working together to enhance food availability and income generation through expanded production and diversified use of nutritious Orange-Fleshed Sweetpotatoes, with a geographical focus on Nigeria and other West African countries. Together, we continue to develop and test technologies and delivery mechanisms that are capable of fulfilling these goals.

We will be making real-time, accurate data available to all stakeholders, and working on the ground in partnership...to create sustainable interventions & monitoring tools that clearly demonstrate improvement in the health and nutritional status of children and women.

— Dr. Sarma Mallubhotla