The role of sweetpotato in Malawi is becoming more important and substantial, as the government has recognized its significant potential to contribute to food security, especially in densely populated areas where landholding size is severely constrained. Furthermore, OFSP can contribute to combating vitamin A deficiency (VAD) and can also serve as a wheat flour substitute in processed products. OFSP is a bio-fortified crop, in that it is a staple food whose micronutrient content has been enhanced to the point where impact on micronutrient status can be achieved (Bouis, 2002). In De Schutter’s special rapporteur’s report on the right to food (2011), submitted to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations General Assembly, he addressed the link between health and nutrition. The report stated that “biofortification”—the improvement at crop level of the micronutrient content of staples—can provide important benefits for rural populations, improving their access to micronutrient-rich foods produced locally at more affordable prices. In addition, Low et al. (2007) reported that promotion of OFSP in Mozambique reduced VAD significantly at the community level.
A formative research study on nutritional status related to poverty and food insecurity in Malawi was done by B. Mtimuni of Bunda College in 20111 . Key information from the study is highlighted here. In Malawi, malnutrition is associated with maternal and child/infant mortality, and the micronutrient deficiencies, vitamin A (59.2%) and anemia (79.7%), were very high among children under the age of 5 years. Although VAD does not kill its victims directly, it weakens the immune system and leaves the child susceptible to diseases such as measles, malaria, and diarrhea. Those most severely affected are young children and pregnant and lactating women. In 2003, the Infant and Young Child Nutrition Policy was formulated by the Government of Malawi, and was revised in 2009 to include new WHO recommendations on feeding practices, for HIV exposed infants and young children. The review also helped to align the policy with the National Nutrition Policy and Strategic Plan (NPSP), which is the main document to guide implementation and provision of nutrition services, interventions, programs, and projects in the country for the period 2007–2012. It was recommended to conduct training exercises on nutrition education and communication as part of a comprehensive information education and communication (IEC) strategy. These activities are programmed under the “Scaling up Nutrition (SUN) 1000 Special Days” Initiative. Rooting out Hunger in Malawi with Nutritious Orange-Fleshed Sweetpotato project is aligned with this “SUN” movement.
Authors: B. Mtimuni, P. Nkhoma, A.C. Mchiela, M. Iwanda, P. Pankomera, John Kazembe, Obed Mwenye, Ibrahim Benesi, Edward Carey, Putri Ernawati Abidin, Felistus Chipungu, Catherine Mfitilodze, B. Mtimuni, P. Nkhoma, A.C. Mchiela, M. Iwanda, P. Pankomera, John Kazembe, Obed Mwenye, Ibrahim Benesi, Edward Carey, Putri Ernawati Abidin, Felistus Chipungu, Catherine Mfitilodze
Publisher: International Potato Center
Publication Date: 2011