In previous articles I covered the importance of orange sweet potatoes to our diet and health. I also covered the important nutrition facts of the staple tuber. Please read the previous articles here:
In this article, I will explain how we can encourage people to eat orange fleshed sweet potatoes as food. This helps in combating vitamin A deficiency at home and at the community level. But first we need to understand why we should adopt orange sweet potatoes as a food crop.
Why should we adopt these orange sweet potatoes?
I have explained most of the health and nutritional benefits of sweet potatoes before. Here I will address other factors.
- A sweet potato variety with awesome healthy benefits like this is special. Because sweet potatoes are hard crops. And this means that they can be grown were other crops fail. Also, it ensures that its easier to produce and ensure the nutrition of many.
- Orange sweet potatoes are like other sweet potatoes, they are easily propagated by cuttings of their vines. So, if you get a few vines, you can produce your own vines at home. And you can ensure a healthy diet for your family. This also lowers the production costs of this sweet potato.
- NB. If possible replace these vines every few years with new vines which have undergone virus elimination. Sweet potatoes viruses can reduce average yield. And reduce food output and income.
- Unlike white fleshed sweet potatoes, these sweet potatoes are rich in provitamin A compounds and other beneficial phytochemicals. Therefore, they offer more health benefits when eaten. They can also help combat family and community based vitamin A deficiency. If you can produce more than you need you can easily sell or gift to people in your community.
- Also, these sweet potatoes can fortify vitamin A deficient diets. These special sweet potatoes were bred vitamin A rich. They are bio fortified with vitamin A.
So, how do we encourage adoption of orange sweet potatoes.
1. Ensuring efficient vine distribution
Surely, we can’t be preaching the benefits of a non existent food. Whilst advocating for the sweet potatoes is good, providing the vines is better. It’s not that difficult, an efficient person can produce thousands of orange fleshed sweet potatoes vines within a few months. Right in time for the new planting season.
Another viable method to ensure proper distribution of the vines is to set up decentralized vine multipliers. The multiplying process won’t work if the involved organizations want to remain the sole producers of the vines. People easily accept crops that they are familiar with. Decentralizing vine multiplication can help generate the trust needed for people to accept orange sweet potatoes as a food.
All, promotional programs should include vine distribution. Even, distributing small amounts so that people can multiply vines on their own.
2. Making use of agricultural extension and nutrition workers
These people have the biggest contact with farmers and the general public especially in the rural areas. And they already know how they communicate effectively with the people involved. They can even organise demonstration farms. And once these are run successfully. People can easily accept the orange fleshed sweet potatoes. This is because the demos provides personal experiences with the new sweet potatoes.
Nutritionist on the other hand are thete to hammer home the benefits of this sweet potato. And if they can effectively target, young mothers, youths, school children and influential people; It then becomes easy for the nutritional awareness to spread.
3. Community training and awareness generation
Community training and awareness programs can contribute greatly towards creating awareness about orange sweet potatoes. This helps in familiarizing the consumers and farmers to the food. I have come to realise that people only trust food stuffs and crops they are familiar with.
Also, their sense of taste is tuned towards the current sweet potato varieties. So, usually on their first bite, they expect the sweet potatoes to taste like what they are used to. Any different taste is maligned and disapproved. However, continuous exposure to orange fleshed sweet potatoes, is good to them. Because it enables them to slowly get used to this sweet potato.
Training also expose consumers to better agricultural practices for optimal yield. It also exposes them to different methods of preparing and cooking the sweet potatoes. For example adding soups amd other culinary condiments.
This can help facilitate the adoption of orange fleshed sweet potatoes.
4. Education on orange sweet potatoes preservation methods
Besides expectations for high yields, consumers and farmers also expect their produce to sustain them over time. That is only possible using better preservation methods. And preserving sweet potatoes whilst retaining the organoleptic qualities can be a challenge.
After harvest, sweet potatoes can only remain fresh for a few days. After which, they start rotting and moulding. Teaching consumers and farmers on how to better preserve their produce and reduce losses, helps improve adoption.
Traditional methods for preserving sweet potatoes can be taught to the farmers and consumers. These include:
- Leaving them in the ground and harvesting only small quantities each time. This enables the sweet potatoes to remain flesh for longer. However, they may lose some of their organoleptic qualities when they lose most of their water underground. But the sweet potatoes can remain fresh for longer.
- Curing the sweet potatoes in the sunlight for 1 or 2 days. And then storing them indoors. The sweet potatoes can be stored spread on the floor or in sacks. The lifetime of this is lower.
- Digging a hole on the ground and sterilising the hole with fire and ash. Then adding the sweet potatoes into the hole and covering it. The sweet potatoes preserved with this method can also lost a bit longer.
- Store on a raised platform and covering with grass.
- Other modern methods include cutting the fresh sweet potatoes into chips that can be dried. Milling these dried chips produces a flour that have many applications.
5. Pest and disease management of orange sweet potatoes
People can hesitate to accept orange fleshed sweet potatoes due to fear of losses due to pests and diseases. Studies in Mozambique show that farmers believe orange fleshed sweet potatoes to be easily damaged by pests and diseases than white fleshed ones. So some farmers may be reluctant to grow them.
So, training farmers can in proper disease management and pest control is beneficial. This enables them to prevent or reduce damage to their sweet potato crops. As a result they will get better yields.
6. Be more engaging with the community
As explained earlier, engaging farmers and consumers in promotional programs brings a sense of ownership. It reduces the distrust people have on orange fleshed sweet potatoes. This sense of ownership helps in the adoption of the orange fleshed sweet potatoes.
7. Encourage use of cheaper organic fertilizers to improve yield
This reduces the cost of producing orange fleshed potatoes. This because no chemicals and fertilisers are needed for growth. This will also reduce the amount of chemical residues in the sweet potatoes.
If we are to eradicate hidden hunger and vitamin A deficiency. We need to make use of this superfood. Orange sweet potatoes are there best alternative vitamin A source because they have a lower costs of production. And also, they have other phytochemicals that offer more healthy benefits.