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The Annans celebrate a colourful crop in Ghana

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan speaks about the benefits of orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) to a packed crowd in Abor, Ghana. See all event photos here.

Kofi and Nane Annan visited the Volta Region of Ghana for an special event celebrating the orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) on Monday August 16, along with a delegation of officials. Farmers, politicians, chiefs, businessmen, NGOs, and Ghana’s Most Beautiful (pageant reality show) winners gathered at a durbar (a ceremonial traditional gathering) in Abor to the sounds of drums and dancers.

The event was organized by the International Potato Center (CIP) to showcase OFSP, which has enormous potential to combat vitamin A deficiency in Africa. CIP has been instrumental in promoting the crop in Ghana, pushing the root as a way to health and wealth in the region. FRI has has the pleasure of working with the Center on the Reducing vitamin A deficiency with OFSP project, using radio to encourage farmers to grow and eat OFSP.

Agriculture key to a stronger Africa

The Annans have been particular champions of the colourful sweet potato. In his speech to the crowd, Kofi Annan highlighted the need to improve nutrition in the country to enable the growth and development of every child so they can grow up to be healthy adults who contribute to society. He also promoted agriculture as a way for Ghanaians to increase prosperity and feed themselves, rather than looking to export what they grow and import what they eat.

A special sweet potato

It’s hard to imagine that there could be this much excitement over sweet potato. But OFSP isn’t your average tuber.

The orange root is an excellent source of vitamin A; 100 grams of the sweet potato can provide enough vitamin A to meet the daily needs of a small child. In a country where 70 percent of young children suffer from vitamin A deficiency, finding simple solutions to the problem are a necessity.

OFSP is just that. It’s easy to grow and care for, and Farm Radio International has already done work in teaching farmers how to care for the plant through radio programs broadcast in the Volta, Centra, Upper East, and Northern regions of Ghana.

Making orange the new white

The difficulty is creating awareness. OFSP is not well known in the country, where people are much more aware of OFSP’s cousin, the white-fleshed sweet potato. Roadside outlets can help by providing visible and accessible locations for people to buy OFSP products.

Vekon Bakery OFSP

A baker at the Vekon Bakery pushes boiled OFSP through a grater so that it can be used in making the dough for the popular orange bread.

The Vekon Bakery outlet in Sogakope is a popular stopping point for people travelling between Ghana’s capital, Accra, and Togo. Its OFSP-fortified bread sells out quickly, almost as quickly as the bakery can make it. Indeed, the bread had sold out before the Annans even made it to the sales point during their visit. Luckily, they also visited the bakery where the bread is made by adding boiled and mashed OFSP to the dough in replacement of wheat flour. It turns the bread an attractive orange colour while making it much more nutritious.

OFSP as a solution to vitamin A deficiency has been championed by many organizations across Ghana. During celebrations and tours like this, organizations like FRI can really see the impact and potential of OFSP in improving food security, nutrition, and health.

Tara Sprickerhoff
About the author  
Tara Sprickerhoff is a recent graduate of Carleton University’s Bachelor of Journalism program. She spent the summer of 2015 working in Accra, Ghana, as a journalism intern with Farm Radio International, and recently returned to continue on. Tara aspires to one day work in radio herself, as she is happiest when she is able to give others a voice to share their own stories and passions.