Published On: Tue, May 23rd, 2017

Potatoes a sweet solution to Mozambique’s food insecurity woes

Flag of Mozambique

Flag of Mozambique

MAPUTO, (CAJ News) – A massive sweet potato project the Mozambican government has embarked on, with the support of international partners, is transforming the lives of impoverished rural communities, addressing long running challenges of food insecurity and thwarting exposure to disease.
Launched by the United States government through its international development agency (USAID), at a cost of $2,25 million in 2015, the Viable Sweet Potato Technologies (VISTA) aims to reach 500 000 households of Nampula and Zambézia, two of the most impoverished provinces of Mozambique.
The project to disseminate orange pulp sweet potato varieties was introduces under the International Potato Centre (CIP), to run until 2018.
According to the general director of the International Potato Centre, Simon Heck, when the project started, 22 500 households were involved.Heck also says that, now entering its second phase, VISTA will benefit 80 000 new households.
Meanwhile, 375 000 other families will benefit indirectly from the project, thus totaling the targeted 500 000 households in Nampula and Zambezia provinces.
The senior agronomist of the VISTA project in Nampula, Filipe Zano, said the project was premised on steering agriculture, nutrition and market development.
“We have the prospect of further enhancing the work with health centers so that mothers seeking health care have access to the sweet potato branch as well as the district services of economic activities to expand the projects to places where they cannot cover,” Zano explained.Data from the Mozambican health ministry indicates that 55 out of 100 people suffer from chronic malnutrition in Nampula in the northeast.
The figure is slightly less but equally worrying in the centra-coastal Zambezia.
Some 41 out of 100 people suffer recurrent malnutrition, with mainly children, the elderly, pregnant and lactating women as well as people living with HIV/AIDS worse off.

Hence the importance of orange pulp sweet-potato for its high nutritional values, particularly vitamins, which the white potatoes do not contain.
There was a strong incentive to convince families to consume vitamin A especially in the Southern African country where the rate of this deficiency and prevalence of malnutrition are high.
“We know, for example, that 69 percent of the Mozambican populations, especially children under five years, have deficiencies of vitamin A,” said the representative of the CIP in Mozambique and Southern Africa, Maria Isabel Andrade.

>There is also the economic aspect.

Earlier this year, the deputy minister of Industry and trade, Ragendra de Souza, advised the country’s 28 million population to resort to sweet potatoes and cassava as alternatives to bread. The price of bread, a major breakfast component in Mozambique, has been constantly rising.

The project is entering its second phase on the back of positive reports from the first group of households which were involved in the VISTA project.

The families are reported to have improved their dietary and nutritional condition.

Meanwhile, orange pulp sweet potato has entered the top-five one of produced food cultures in the beneficiary’s districts.

Last, 76 producers sold orange pulp sweet potato branches to 18 513 households, 62 associations and seven partners, generating more than $ 14 000.

Andrade said progress had been made in the field of research to improve the quality of sweet potatoes in orange pulp.
For example, three of the 15 new varieties of this potato released in the country have become tolerant following genetic research.
Going forward, some of the strategies of the VISTA implementers will be to teach households new orange sweet potato recipes in order to make the tube more attractive.
Education campaigns about micronutrient-rich foods such as the potatoes will be rolled out.
In the meantime, the project will train farmers and merchants on the improved handling, packing and transport of fresh roots and branches.
There is a positive expectation from those funding and benefiting from the project as Nampula and Zambezia have temperate climate, large quantities of arable land and high number of people working in the agricultural sector, making it viable to produce the sweet potatoes.
The Mozambican minister of agriculture and food security, José Pacheco, said the implementation will be of great importance for food and nutritional security and increase of family income, particularly in the
rural areas of the two aforementioned provinces. 
US ambassador, Dean Pittman, said his government was proud to continue to support the expansion of the initiative in Mozambique. 
“The project is very important in the fight against chronic malnutrition,” said the envoy.
 – CAJ News

Featured Video