SweetPotatoes: A Realistic Answer for Nigeria's Nutrition Crisis

Net houses with sweetpotatoes pre-basic seed.

Nigeria is among the top producers worldwide of staple crops lncluding cassava, yam, and sweetpotato (SP). Unfortunately, it has done little to curb malnutrition and poverty rates in the country. Regardless of its production of the aforementioned crops, Nigeria continues to rank high in the list of countries suffering from food shortages, food insecurity, and poverty.

Nigeria has one of the highest rates of malnutrition in the world with over 300,000 children dying every year from acute malnutrition and over 10 million stunted children. The percent of children in Nigeria who are too thin for their height, or wasted, increased from 11% in 2003 - 18% in 2013. This is significantly higher than the critical threshold for declaring emergencies (15%).

The prevalence of vitamin A deficiency effects 29.5% of the population, with the World Health Organization listing Nigeria as a “category one” country, the worst rating. Conditions are even worse in Northern Nigerian states. In Kano the prevalence of stunted growth for children under five years of age is as high as 48%. High levels of malnutrition lead to increased child mortality, and significantly reduce learning and economic capacity, effectively stagnating economic development.

Orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP)

Enter, the sweetpotato. The sweetpotato is an important root crop in Nigeria. Nigeria is the second largest producer of the crop in Sub Saharan Africa. It has the ability to thrive in marginal soil, while its broad agro-ecological adaptability makes it a food security crop because it can be grown in all of Nigeria’s 36 states. It has a relatively short production cycle (3-4 months) and its roots and vines can be utilized for both human and animal consumption. The orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP) is developed and bio-fortified with vitamin A by the International Potato Center (CIP) and the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI). The best thing about OFSP? It only takes 125 grams of OFSP to supply the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A for children and non-lactating women.

The NRCRI is helping smallholder farmers and targeted beneficiaries, specifically women and children, to fight vitamin A deficiency in Nigeria and Sub Saharan Africa. The CIP is also working in collaboration with eHealth Africa (eHA) to jointly set up the OFSP quality declared planting materials at centrally located multiplication plots/net houses in Bayero University Kano.

Through technology and research, eHA and our partners look forward to seeing how the OFSP combats malnutrition and improves the overall well-being of the Nigerian people.