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Commitment to Mainstreaming Beta-Carotene (pro-Vitamin A) into National Program Breeding Efforts


At the recent 15th Annual Sweetpotato SpeedBreeders  Meeting, held in Nairobi 6-10 June 2016, discussions were held concerning which of the released varieties to date were being adopted most widely and why.  Breeders are selecting 100 “Best Bet” Sweetpotato varieties for sub-Saharan Africa that will be prioritized for maintaining core stocks of disease-free pre-basic cuttings (seed) at the regional hub at the Kenya Plant Health Inspection Service. 


Participants at the Speedbreeders and Genomics meeting in Nairobi in June 2016 (Photo: C.Bukania)

Participants at the Speedbreeders and Genomics meeting in Nairobi in June 2016

Breeders discussed and debated many priority traits in their program.  Among these is beta-carotene, the trait that gives an orange color to the roots and is converted into vitamin A in the body.  It was noted that at the 2nd Global Biofortification Conference held in April 2014 in Kigali, Rwanda, Frank Rijsberman, CEO of the CGIAR Consortium, announced that the “CGIAR Research Centers, have committed to make breeding for mineral and vitamin traits in their regular food crop development programs the norm”.   However, the International Potato Center works on population development of key traits and in Sub-Saharan Africa, it is the national program breeders who officially release varieties.  At this meeting, 30 sweetpotato breeders working in 14 African countries recognized that given the high levels of vitamin A deficiency in the region, breeding for varieties with high levels of beta-carotene combined with other traits such as virus resistance and/or drought tolerance was of high priority.  They debated what mainstreaming such a trait truly means.  Given that beta-carotene is a visible biofortified trait and one that is often new to many farmers, it is important that awareness campaigns go hand in hand with releasing biofortified, orange-fleshed sweetpotato.  At the present time, these breeders agreed to strive to assure that at least 50% of the clones they submit for release are biofortified, orange fleshed types.



We note that since 2009, 7 out of 10 of the new varieties released in sub-Saharan Africa were orange-fleshed.  Odds are high that these Speedbreeders will continue to exceed their minimum target levels.


The following sweetpotato breeders’ signed commitment to mainstraiming Beta-Carotene into national breeding efforts:




15th Annual Sweetpotato SpeedBreeders Meeting

6-10 June 2016

Nairobi, Kenya


We, the sweetpotato breeders active in sub-Saharan Africa that are engaged in breeding and/or varietal selection, agree that prioritizing the integration of significant levels of beta-carotene into sweetpotato varieties is of high priority given the high levels of vitamin A deficiency on the continent. We commit to striving to assure that at least 50% of the clones we submit for release are biofortified, orange-fleshed types.


First Name


Kwabena Acheremu


Solomon Olufemi Afuape


Daniel Akansake


Abilio Dos Santos Alvaro


Maria Isabel Andrade


Ernest Baafi


Astere Bararyenya


Ted Carey


Martin Chiona


Konan Eurard Brice Dibi

Cote D’Ivoire

Fekadu Gurmu


Laura Karanja


Benjamin Musembi Kivuva


Sunette Laurie

South Africa

Godwill Simbarashe Makunde


Robert Mwanga


Obed John Mwenye


Jean Ndirigwe


Gaspard Nihorimbere


Grace Nwaigwe


Michelin Bruno Rasoloniaina


Jose Ricardo


Placide Rukundo


Damien Shumbusha


Koussao Some

Burkina Faso

Gorrettie Ssemakula


Godfrey Sseruwu


Obaiya Grace Utoblo


Charles Wasonga


Bernard Yada




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