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The 8th Sweetpotato for Profit and Health Initiative (SPHI) Meeting: Building Resilient Food Systems with Sweetpotato

The 8th Annual Sweetpotato for Profit and Health Initiative (SPHI) meeting was held between the 24th and 27th September 2017 at the Ramada Resort in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. 105 delegates attended this year’s meeting themed Building Resilient Food Systems with Sweetpotato. The meeting brought together multiple stakeholders in researchers, the donor community, policy makers, private sector actors, farmers and non-governmental organizations working along various sweetpotato value chains in a total of 16 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, and Germany, Peru, United States of America and Britain.

Some of the booths at the SPHI 2017 exhibition credit: Lilies Gachanja (CIP SSA)

The meeting began with an exhibition dabbed Maonesho ya Matumizi ya Viazi Lishe held at the Milimani City mall in Dar es Salaam on Sunday the 24th of September between noon and 6pm. The exhibition brought together 14 agricultural research institutes and projects, and 6 private sector sweetpotato production firms, and attracted a total of 537 unique visitors. The well-attended exhibition painted the mall orange and provided visitors a taste of orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP) products and technologies currently in the market.

During his opening address at the SPHI meeting, Dr. Hussein Mansoor, Director of Research and Development, Tanzania’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security observed that biofortification plays a significant and complementary role in addressing hidden hunger. He also noted that in Tanzania, orange-fleshed sweetpotato  is among the biofortified crops in production. “OFSP is being promoted and produced in 48 out of the 169 districts in Tanzania which accounts for 28% of the country. We hope to expand to all the district in the country very soon,” he said, emphasizing the contribution pro-vitamin A rich orange-fleshed sweetpotatoes could make in Tanzania.

SPHI 2017 participants Credit: Vivian Atakos (CIP SSA)

During her keynote address at the meeting, Dr. Kiddo Mtunda from the Sugar Research Institute (SRI-Kibaha) highlighted progress in sweetpotato breeding and seed systems in Tanzania.  She highlighted breeding targets as follows: root yield of over 15 tonnes per hectare, maturity of four months or less after planting, tolerance to viral diseases at a score of 2 (1-5 scale), high beta carotene content of roots and leaves, high iron and zinc content of leaves, sugar content (low, moderate, high), dry matter of 20%-38% as well as dual purpose sweetpotato (leaf and root production). “To date, we have released 17 sweetpotato varieties. Of these, six are orange-fleshed sweetpotatoes (OFSP),” she noted.

Over the two-day period, participants engaged in discussions on progress made across sweetpotato value chains such as seed systems, production, post-harvest technologies and marketing in sub Saharan Africa, in line with the meeting theme. Dr. Julius Okello from CIP Uganda gave an update on the current status of sweetpotato in Sub-Saharan Africa which opened the floor to presentations and discussions on lessons learnt from the various aspects of sweetpotato and the way forward for SPHI. Players in the private sector who have engaged in value addition of OFSP got an opportunity to share their experiences through a panel discussion. The private sector participants, who got an opportunity to display their sweetpotato innovations and products from Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Rwanda, Ghana and Mozambique during the exhibition at the Mlimani City mall, were involved in a panel discussion. The other meeting participants got a chance to understand who the private sector players producing OFSP are and asked questions on the methods used for production and the private sectors players’ plans for the future.

The two day meeting culminated in a cocktail session where winners of the SPHI 2017 contests received their awards. Dr. Barbra Wells, International Potato Center (CIP) Director General presented the winners of the best scientific paper award, the what’s in a name contest, the SPHI photo contest and the communication for change award with their prizes. Dr. Wells appreciated the stakeholders present at the meeting and thanked them for their continued support and role in attaining SPHI’s goal of reaching 10 million households by the year 2020.

Participants at a screenhouse at SRI Kibaha during the field trip Credit: Lilies Gachanja (CIP SSA)

Participants of the SPHI meeting took part in 2 field trips. The first, to Kibaha and AFCO Investments Company Limited, took place on Wednesday 27th September and attracted 57 participants.  Participants departed from the hotel to Kibaha Sugarcane Research Institute where they got to visit the screenhouses with an abundant supply of pre-basic seeds for released sweetpotato varieties with special focus on orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP). These screenhouses ensure that vine multipliers have access to clean planting materials, free from viruses and other diseases. Participants then proceeded to AFCO Investments Company Limited in Mbagala, Temeke. AFCO Investments, a private food processing firm, produce OFSP flour, pro-vitamin A maize flour and other composite flour that is distributed across the country. Participants were taken through the facility based in the owner’s home, and they got to see the basic production mechanisms the company uses to process their products.

The second field trip held on Thursday 28th September attracted 33 participants. The field trip that was held in Morogoro and participants visited the Sokoine University Graduate Enterpreneurs Cooperative (SUGECO) where they got to learn about the cooperative and its product development lab. There was also a visit to the SUGECO incubation center for drying OFSP produce. The participants also visited the Viable Sweetpotato Technologies for Africa (VISTA) demonstration farms for OFSP seed multiplication. They got to explore the different OFSP seed varietiesdeveloped by the VISTA project.

SPHI is a 10-year multi-partner, multidonor initiative that seeks to reduce child malnutrition and improve smallholder incomes through effective production and diversified use of sweetpotato. SPHI is co-led by CIP and the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA).

About Lilies Gachanja

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