Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries of sub-Saharan Africa, as well as one of the 35 countries identified by WHO and FAO as being the most severely affected by vitamin A deficiency (VAD). A recent study by Helen Keller International found low levels of serum retinal for 85% of children 12-36 months of age and for 64% of mothers in the Sanmatenga Province (ten villages and one town), indicating that VAD is a public health problem. It is widely recognized that micronutrient malnutrition has significant negative impacts on human health, survival and development. Vitamin A deficiency adversely affects vision, bone growth, reproduction, cell division, and cell differentiation. It also makes people much more vulnerable to diseases such as malaria.Food-based strategies are a promising approach to ensure sustainable improvements of vitamin A intakes for whole populations. Within this context, the promotion of orange-fleshed sweetpotatoes (OFSP), which are rich in beta carotene, is a promising strategy for improving the vitamin A (VA) intake of women and children, who are the most vulnerable segment of the population. In Africa, sweetpotatoes are a staple crop, but varieties are typically white and high in dry matter. In order to fulfill the needs of farmers and consumers, OFSP varieties must have high yields, good pest resistance and high dry-matter content.Most of the work on development and utilization of OFSP to date has been done in Eastern and Southern Africa, including work done by projects receiving CCRP support : the Sweetpotato breeding (Uganda) and Sweetpotato diversity (Kenya) projects. This project represents an effort to bring the benefits of the Eastern and Southern African work on micronutrient-enriched sweetpotato varieties, to micronutrient-deficient populations in West Africa. The project will initially target Burkina Faso but will also help to inform the future development of similar projects in other countries in the Sahel. The agroclimactic conditions in Burkina Faso are similar to those in the rest of the Sahelian band of West African countries and cultural practices related to sweetpotato production and consumption are similar as well.
The project intends to address the following objectives:Develop and implement a model for more accurate assessment of the production and consumption of sweetpotato in collaboration with the national agricultural statistics division .Introduce, disseminate and evaluate the uptake of new high-yielding, high dry matter OFSP varieties through four target groups (traditional sweetpotato producers, cereal producers, women’s gardening groups and school gardening groups).Promote the production and consumption of OFSP and sweetpotato leaves through advocacy and nutrition education at the national and local levelsTest the feasibility of shade drying of OFSP in collaboration with selected women’s groups and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) .Enhance the capacity of local agricultural extension agents and other local actors to use participatory methods in the promotion, monitoring and evaluation of OFSP programs.The goal of this project is to increase production and consumption of OFSP in two regions of Burkina Faso (Sissili and Eastern Region) and inform OFSP programs in the rest of West Africa.