Sweet potato -solution to malnutrition in Ghana

Fri, 8 Nov 2013 Source: Hinneh, Samuel

Sweet potato vitamin a-solution to malnutrition in Ghana

By Samuel Hinneh

One of the key to addressing malnutrition among children in the country lies in the consumption of sweet potato vitamin A, scientists and development experts say.

“Sweet potato apart from being one of the starchy staples is a source of carbohydrates and the new ones we have developed is very rich in beta carotene- prerequisite for vitamin A which is very good for children eye sight, and nutrition,’’ Mr Isaac Baning, the Communication Officer of West Africa Agricultural Productivity Programme (WAAPP), at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research -Crop Research Institute.

Mr Baning made these known at a workshop organised by Development Action Association (DAA) a farmer-based organisation in collaboration with Crop Research Institute to promote sweet potatoes with vitamin A in Konko near Tinkon in the Eastern region as a pilot area to promote nutrition education to achieve food security.

Available statistics by the Ghana Health Service (GHS) 2012 indicate that 12,000 children in Ghana die every year of under- weight related ailments due to malnutrition. The statistics also indicate that under nutrition contributes to about half of all child deaths beyond early infancy whilst one out of every thirteen children in Ghana die before their fifth birthday mostly as a result of under-nutrition.

Four new varieties of sweet potato vitamin A were developed and released in December 2012 by the Crop Research Institute, in total there are about 8 varieties of sweet potato in the country, which are rich in beta carotene. “Basically we are a research institution we come out with products and we are expecting entrepreneurs to come and pay some royalties to us to use technology for commercial purposes, but that is not forth coming.’’

“Our basic clients are farmers and processors and none of them is prepared to pay and we cannot sit on our technology so we are disseminating free of charge, but one day we want to see entrepreneurs using our technology on commercial basis to produce products,’’ Mr Baning stated.

He noted that the institute is willing to engage partnership with entrepreneurs to adopt the technology to produce products on commercial basis. Vitamin A is critical for the development of good vision as it is an essential component of rhodopsin, a pigment in photoreceptor cells in the eye. Consequently in poor communities in Africa and south-east Asia, where diets poor in vitamin A are widespread, vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of preventable blindness.

Lydia Sasu, the executive director of the DAA says Vitamin A deficiency in Ghana is a problem therefore the need to promote sweet potato vitamin A, which helps in providing the right nutrients to solve malnutrition mostly lacking among poor communities in the country to safeguard food security.

“Looking forward to Crop Research to involve rural women into the designing of their programmes, in spite of the fact that rural women education is very low but they can contribute a lot to development in communities,’’ she says. Bransford A Owusu, the chief technical officer of the ministry of agriculture Konko operational area noted that sweet potato vitamin A taste is not very sweet compared to the conventional one, as a result acceptance and adoption is a problem.

“So we are introducing it into schools, so that the school children can offer some education to their parents on the need to plant the sweet potato vitamin A due to the benefits it offers such nutrition, as well as good sights,’’ he says. “Started with operational area and gradually spread it to the other areas, if there is enough in the system commercialisation becomes easy,’’ Mr Owusu emphasised.

Columnist: Hinneh, Samuel