The Marketing, Processing and Utilization Community of Practice held its annual meeting from 14th to 16th March 2016 at the Kunduchi Beach Hotel and Resort, Dar es Salaam. The theme of the meeting was, Rebranding OFSP for Health and Wealth.
Thirty-six participants from the private sector, research institutions, universities and other governmental institutions in East, West and Southern Africa discussed progress in product development, integration of agriculture and nutrition into health service delivery, and gender- and youth-responsive approaches to market development for sweetpotato roots, leaves, vines and processed products.
Increasing women and youth participation in the sweetpotato value chain
A panel discussion was dedicated to addressing the question of women and youth inclusion. The discussion panel, moderated by Professor Ibok Oduro (Ghana), was made up of Srinivasulu Rajendran (regional), Mariam Fofanah (Ethiopia), Kirimi Sindi (Rwanda), Penina Muoki (Kenya), Daniel Van Vugt (Malawi), Roland Brouwer (Mozambique) and Olapeju Phorbee (Nigeria).
Srini Rajendran, the Agricultural Economist for the Sweetpotato Action for Security and Health Project at CIP, summed up the issue that has to be resolved in his introductory statement: “The agriculture sector is not attractive to the youth. Therefore, in the value chain system, we have to clearly understand where youth is involved. There are clear indicators that the youth would prefer to be involved in the upstream of the value chain, e.g., trading and transport, but not in the downstream, where the production is happening.”
Most of the sweetpotato projects represented by panelists had not specifically targeted youth or gender at inception. However, some of them, by virtue of working with women of reproductive age and those with children under the age of five, they had inadvertently reached a proportion of the youth with their interventions, because many of their beneficiaries fell within this age group.
Other projects, such as that presented by Mariama Fofanah, the Nutrition Health Coordinator – CIP Ethiopia, explained that no gender analysis was done at the beginning of the project, but they had revised their implementation strategy when they encountered gender-related problems. “In the beginning, men would participate in the agriculture trainings, while women participated in the nutrition trainings. To address the gender imbalance, agriculture and nutrition trainings were combined,” she explained.
“I would concentrate the youth engagement on processing, marketing and promotion. From experience, youth feel they get money faster when they do transport, as opposed to waiting for the roots to get ready. The young women are restless, but when you engage them in processing, they are very active,” recommended Olapeju Phorbee, who heads the Sweetpotato for Wealth and Heath Project in Nigeria.
But who are the youth? This question, which had been the source of a heated debate during earlier presentations was revisited and resolved during the panel discussion. Participants agreed that whereas most countries considered anyone below the age of 35 as a youth, it was more realistic, for project purposes, to target the specific age group of 18-25 year olds as that is a time when many career choices are made.
To better manage and report on progress, participants agreed that efforts would have to be made to analyze data critically, identify gender and youth issues, find ways to address them and include them in M&E systems.
A busy schedule with multiple themes
Through presentations and panel discussions, participants shared their and contemplated approaches that would increase adoption rates for the innovations that were being delivered onto the market. In addition to the theme on gender and youth perspectives along the value chain, the other themes were product development and utilization options for sweetpotato; nutritional value and safety aspects of the sweetpotato subsector; post-harvest handling and storage of roots and OFSP puree; and understanding value chains.
The meeting was preceded by a practical training on how to use the re-launched Sweetpotato Knowledge Portal. In a bid to make the Community of Practice more vibrant, the members selected priority topics for online discussions and resolved to hold these discussions on the Portal.
Running concurrently with the last session of the meeting, Antonio Magnaghi, the proprietor of Euro Ingredients Ltd., and a key partner in product development in the region, held a practical cooking session for nine chefs from the Kunduchi Beach Hotel and Resort and neighboring restaurants.
The purpose of this session was to demonstrate the practical aspects of preparing OFSP restaurant products as a way of encouraging the hotels to include such products on their menus. Chefs learned how to clean, peel, steam and puree OFSP roots, which they then used for the preparation of dough. This dough was used for the preparation of gnocchi. They also prepared and sautéed OFSP wedges, coated them with spices and then put them into an oven to bake.
It was a nice conclusion to a long and fruitful meeting, as participants got to observe the final preparations of the gnocchi, and to taste both the gnocchi and OFSP wedges that had been prepared.
Here are some photos from the meeting