Prisoners’ health improved by orange-fleshed sweet potatoes

Eric Mireku is the superintendent of the Ankaful Main Camp Prison near Ghana’s Cape Coast. One day, he was listening to a program on Radio Central when his attention was captured by a piece on orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, or OFSP.

He was intrigued when he heard that the crop could counter symptoms of vitamin A deficiency such as skin diseases and night blindness. The program he was listening to is called Apomuden. It is produced by Radio Central, in association with Farm Radio International, as part of a five-country campaign to boost production and consumption of OFSP, and thereby reduce vitamin A deficiency.

From his 28 years working at the prison, Eric is familiar with the symptoms of vitamin A deficiency. Eric says, “Many inmates suffer from scabies and skin diseases.” They often have poor vision or go blind. OFSP seemed like a new way to improve inmates’ health, so he decided to find some.

He recognized the voice of the radio program’s host, Victoria Dansoa Abankwa, because the two attend the same church.  In addition to her role as radio host, Victoria is also an OFSP educator and vine distributor and works as an extension officer in charge of women in agriculture for the Cape Coast region.

Eric talked to Victoria at their church. Shortly after, Victoria delivered 1,000 cartons of OFSP vines to the prison. She says: “For me, it’s a plus because it improves the health of the inmates there. They use them to do farming … they produce crops for their own consumption.”

Victoria believes that inmates could use their new agricultural skills to become farmers after they are released. She believes that once they have served their time, ex-prisoners will want to continue growing their own food. And, because they will have discovered the benefits of a healthy diet, their harvests will include vitamin A-rich OFSP.

Apomuden is part of the Reducing vitamin A deficiency with orange-fleshed sweet potato project, which promotes nutritious OFSP across Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, Burkina Faso, and Mali, including how to plant, grow, market, and cook with it. It is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and implemented in partnership with Helen Keller International, the International Potato Centre, and Sweet Potato Action for Security and Health in Africa. 

This is an adaptation of a story by Juanita Bawagan that was first published in Barza Wire, Farm Radio International’s weekly news service for broadcasters.

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