Jumpstarting Orange-Fleshed Sweet Potato in West Africa through Diversified Markets

Implementing Organization: International Potato Center under the auspices of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Key Stakeholders: Implementing partner institutions such as research and development organizations and nongovernment organizations; farmers groups; local governments; private sector; and schools in Ghana, Nigeria, and Burkina Faso

Project Period: April 2014-May 2017; second phase starts last quarter of 2017

Project Overview:

In April 2014, the International Potato Center (CIP), a research center of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural (CGIAR) based in Lima, Peru, started implementing its three-year project that aims to curb the micronutrient deficiency problem in Ghana, Nigeria, and Burkina Faso in West Africa. CIP sees the orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP), a Vitamin A-rich food, as a source of innovation to address the health problem that affects vulnerable sectors of the community, particularly children and lactating mothers. While sweetpotato is part of the diet of the communities in West Africa, the familiar varieties are white in color sothere is a need to increase the demand for the higher-nutrient orange-flesh variety of sweet potato.

To respond to this problem, CIP designed an action research project that will utilize sustainable and inclusive market-driven approaches in the production and marketing of OFSP. The Jumpstarting OFSP Project primarily aims to enhance farmers’ capacities to produce clean planting materials year round, establish formal and informal markets for fresh and processed OFSP products, and equip farmers with the capacity toparticipate in the value chain of OFSP.

CIP works with government agencies and NGOs in establishing the markets for OFSP and in organizing and linking the farmer groups to the markets. Learning sessions and ‘demand-creation’ campaigns were used to create the demand for OFSP both in formal and informal markets. School-based feeding programs were tapped as one of the formal market options. Linkages with the private sector, NGOs, and the government were also strengthened through partnerships and capacity development activities (e.g. use of participatory techniques in dialogues, community meetings, and learning workshops).

Capacity Development in Action

Addressing a complex health problem such as this requires a multi-stakeholder approach of understanding the gaps within each subsystem (i.e. technology, market, agricultural production, health, environment, public institutions) and bringing together various stakeholders to analyze how these gaps are interrelated and collectively, find a suitable solution in addressing the gaps. As clearly indicated in the project documents, developing capacities at the individual, group, and institutional levels are a key to achieving the goals of Jumpstarting OFSP Project in West Africa. This is accomplished through social learning approaches used in establishing the commercial sweetpotato seed systems, innovation development to create new products that would cater to the market’s demand, partnerships and alliance building, knowledge sharing, and advocacy communication. Beyond the level of the project, capacity development opportunities are also possible because the OFSP research is networked within the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB). The RTB program connects individual research into clusters, and thematic clusters of “flagship projects”. Opportunities open up by mobilizing local knowledge from Eastern and Southern Africa on the processing OFSP and exchanging it with partners in West Africa. There is also potential for transformative technology such as biofortification which, for example, breedsa new variety of cassava with higher levels of beta carotene, or the “orange” in OFSP.

For further information, contact Dr. Erna Abidin, Project Leader, Jumpstarting OFSP Project (p.abidin@cgiar.org) and Dr. Graham Theile, Program Director of the CGIAR Research Program for RTB (g.theile@cgiar.org).


1 This is two of two cases inluded in the article.

This article is adopted from Helen Hambly-Odame’s handout with the same title originally written for students of MSc in Capacity Development and Extension at the University of Guelph.

Helen Hambly-Odame is Associate Professor at the School of Environmental Design and Rural Development, University of Guelph. Winifredo B. Dagli is one of Prof. Hambly-Odame’s students in the Foundations of Capacity Development class at the University of Guelph, Fall Semester 2017.