Daphne Machiri Post Correspondent
The orange flesh sweet potato (OFSP) has shown huge potential in boosting food security and fighting vitamin A deficiency.
These sweet potatoes have a classic deep orange colour.
In the country, HarvestPlus Zimbabwe, in collaboration with the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement, has embarked on a nutrition campaign to promote orange-fleshed sweet potato varieties under the UKAid- funded Livelihoods Food and Security Programme.
The aim of the campaign is to promote the production and consumption of food crops rich in vitamins and minerals. These include the Viitamin A orange maize and iron beans (variety NUA45), which are in the basket of bio-fortified crops that fight micronutrient malnutrition.
These bio-fortified crops were conventionally propagated to accumulate more micronutrients in their edible parts without compromising on their yield and other farmer-preferred traits. They are not genetically modified,
HarvestPlus Zimbabwe Interim Country Manager Ms Sakile Kudita revealed that the International Potato Centre (CIP) Mozambique delivered 12 new improved OFSP varieties to the Department of Research and Specialist Services (DR&SS)in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement.
The varieties include six which have already been officially released in Mozambique, and six promising clones. They have all been planted at DR&SS research stations in Harare, at Henderson Research Station, Kadoma Cotton Research Station, Makoholi Research Station, Horticultural Research Institute, Gwebi Variety Testing Centre, Panmure Experiment Station and Marondera University of Agricultural Science.
The OFSP varieties are for evaluation purposes in order to test them for local adaptation and acceptability by local farmers, as well as for rapid multiplication in order to produce more vines of those that do well in the country and are acceptable to local people.
Scientists will work closely together to ensure the successful evaluation and introduction of OFSP into the country.
Other countries who are already growing the Vitamin A orange sweet potato are Mozambique, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia and Tanzania. The 12 OFSP varieties will be evaluated across 17 sites in the country, five experimental research stations and 12 on-farm research sites across the 12 operational districts.
The on-farm evaluation will give smallholder farmers from the 12, mostly women, an opportunity to evaluate the varieties under their own conditions and to select their most preferred varieties for multiplication and wider dissemination.
From these multi-location trials, locally adapted, farmer-preferred OFSP varieties will be identified and disseminated to farmers through a system of district vine multipliers. This therefore is poised not only to increase the nutritive quality of the sweet potatoes grown in the country, and the Vitamin A status of the larger populace, but also to improve the sweet potato seed system in a way that will increase farmer access to virus free sweet potato planting material.
The introduction of OFSP will contribute to better nutrition, increased food security, improved crop diversification, improved incomes for farmers and climate change adaptation.
This is one of the many things that could improve the lives of many millions of people across the world. It will also solve the problem of Vitamin A deficiency.
Vitamin A deficiency causes preventable blindness in children. Children who suffer from Vitamin A deficiency also have an increased risk of falling severely ill and even dying from common childhood infections, particularly measles and diarrhoeal diseases.
The problem is, however, preventable through the consumption of foods that are rich in Vitamin A. These include orange-fleshed fruits and vegetables. Good examples include sweet potatoes, mangoes, pawpaws, carrots, pumpkins and butternuts.