In September 2016, Mecula and Metarica districts displayed orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP) roots at the Niassa Province Nutrition Gala held in Lichinga. During the gala, the governor recommended that OFSP should be produced in all districts of Niassa. OFSP has been selected as one of the key components of fighting chronic malnutrition and food insecurity in the province.
Sweetpotato was already being grown by many households, but OFSP had not been widely adopted. In 2012, the Nutritious Sweetpotato for Niassa project, led by the International Potato Center (CIP), started working with other partners to promote OFSP. Together, the organizations provide access to adequate quantities of quality OFSP planting material by creating a network of decentralized multiplication sites and train farmer multipliers to distribute quality vines to surrounding communities. The project is working in eight districts (Lago, Muembe, Sanga, Chimbunila, Lichinga, Mandimba, Cuamba and Mecanhelas), covering 25 Administrative Posts, 87 localities and 388 villages.
Following alarming results of a 2013 baseline study, the government of Niassa launched an ambitious plan to reduce chronic malnutrition of children below the age of five from 44% to 30% by 2020. The plan targets children within the first 1,000 days of life, adolescents and women of reproductive age. Recognizing the difference that OFSP was making in the nutrition and income status of households in the project districts, Mozambique’s Technical Secretariat for Food Security and Nutrition, commonly known by its Portuguese acronym SETSAN, called on CIP to support them in scaling up the production and utilization of this crop at household level.
Coordinated partnership approach through SETSAN
SETSAN is a national body through which the government of Mozambique coordinates food and nutrition security interventions. In Niassa, SETSAN has been instrumental in promoting OFSP.
Arnaldo Maximiliano Maloa Maloa is the focal point for food security and nutrition, and the head of agricultural extension services in Niassa Province. He explains that the province takes three important elements into consideration: the first is educating households to understand the importance of nutrition; the second is financing of nutrition programs; and the third is technical assistance to extensionists, so that they can continue to provide information to producers and consumers about OFSP and its nutritional value.
SETSAN introduced OFSP vines in Mecula district in 2015. The district forms part of the Niassa Nature Reserve, and although the production was good, wild animals destroyed the crop. Not to be fazed, the district has continued promoting OFSP, and plans are already underway for the 2017 production season. In Metarica district, the Serviço Distrital de Actividade Economicas (SDAE) Director bought vines from Cuamba in early 2016 and distributed them to all the technicians in his district. Here, the production was successful.
Maloa explains that in a region where illiteracy rates are over 50%, nutrition education is one of the challenges that the government of Niassa must address. “Adult education and nutrition education are opportunities for those who did not go to school. The knowledge helps producers to improve their practices and to improve the nutrition of entire families,” he says.
This is another area where the collaboration between SETSAN, CIP and the project’s implementing partner have played a significant role. For example, Associação Progresso, a national non-governmental organization, integrates vine distribution and information dissemination on OFSP production and nutrition in its adult education programs. Through a cadre of community activists, the NGO organizes cooking demonstrations and teaches local communities how to conserve OFSP planting material during the dry season. The Anglican Diocese of Lichinga works with a model in which five core nutrition messages about OFSP are included in nutrition messages passed on to counselors, who consequently work with groups of ten households each.
This approach has contributed to the empowerment of women leaders. Maloa cites the nutrition education program run by the Anglican Diocese, which gives women an opportunity to learn and counsel other households. “In many cases, women do not have an opportunity to say anything, but with this program, they are the focal point and they get opportunities to lead, and to serve as promoters of community welfare,” he says.
Extended to other provinces
By the end of July 2016, 31,737 households had received OFSP vines, mainly Delvia, Gloria, Irene, Bela, Jane and Sumaia varieties. 52% of the recipients were women. 18,784 households (91% represented by women) participated in nutrition training in three districts. SETSAN distributed OFSP vines to all districts not covered by the project from April 2016.
After the annual meeting in April 2016 where a work plan was drafted for transferring OFSP activities to partners, SETSAN distributed OFSP vines to eight other districts without CIP’s intervention. For 2017, all SDAEs have included establishment of OFSP demonstration plots into their individual work plans.
Not only is OFSP spreading to all the districts of Niassa, other provinces are adopting the crop as well. In the months of May and June, the provinces of Cabo Delgado and Nampula are planning to buy vines from Niassa, and Zambezia province has also expressed interest.