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The International Potato Center (CIP) has demonstrated the ability of beta-carotene-rich, orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP) varieties to reduce vitamin A deficiency (VAD) and improve food security, but smallholders in Africa have a hard time preserving those nutritious roots, especially in drought-prone areas, where they become scarce soon after the harvest.

In sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), sweetpotato roots generally only keep for a few weeks, and OFSP roots are perceived to have especially short shelf lives. This short shelf life reduces the health benefits of OFSP, since it means fresh roots are only available to eat for two or three months of a year. It also reduces marketing opportunities, since most roots are sold during the weeks following the harvest, when prices are normally low due to a glut. And it results in a shortage of planting material at the beginning of each rainy season.

CIP scientists are thus promoting storage in dry sand to help farmers to extend the shelf life of their sweetpotato roots. The technique grew out of the Triple S approach, which uses sand storage to preserve enough sweetpotato roots to plant in irrigated seed beds six-to-eight weeks before seasonal rains start, to produce vines for planting. Researchers noted that people sometimes ate the roots they were storing to produce planting material, which indicated that sand storage can also be used to preserve sweetpotato roots for consumption. This allows people to sell and eat fresh sweetpotato for more months of the year, which makes the crop more attractive and marketable, and enables it to improve the incomes, food security and nutritional status of resource-poor farm families.

Continue reading this story on the International Potato Center website.

About Faith Njunge

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