Why people should eat more sweet potatoes

By Peter Mutai and Ronald Njoroge
 Sweet potatoes have more energy than rice, cassava or wheat, the International Potato Center (CIP), says.
At the same time, the CIP is asking African countries to embrace the crop due to its high carbohydrate content.
"Studies show that the sweet potato produces more edible energy per hectare compared to rice, cassava or wheat," the CIP Project Manager Adiel Mbabu says.



   And a CIP training specialist Hilda Munyua says the orange-fleshed sweet potato is rich in beta-carotene which is a precursor to Vitamin A. "It can be used to curb the Vitamin A deficiency that is common in most parts of sub-Saharan Africa," she says.
The sweet potato is the third most important food crop in seven sub-Saharan Africa countries due to negative effects of climate change.   
   Munyua asks farmers to add value to the crop in order to fully benefit from it. "The sweet potato can be processed into a number of products including biscuits and crisps," she says. The training specialist said the crop is normally regarded as a women's crop as it is mostly cultivated by them on small parcels of land.
Munyua asked farmers to add value to the crop in order to fully benefit from it. "The sweet potato can be processed into a number of products including biscuits and crisps," she said. The training specialist said the crop is normally regarded as a women's crop as it is mostly cultivated by them on small parcels of land.
   She adds that sweet potatoes require less inputs such as labour compared with traditional grains.
   Mbabu says sweet potato production only trails that of maize and cassava in Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Ghana and Uganda. However, the scientist says despite its significances, “the root crop has received less investment in the region."
   The two scientists were speaking in Nairobi on May 22, ahead of the ninth Triennial Africa Potato Association conference in the capital in July.
   National Potato Council of Kenya (NPCK) CEO Wachira Kaguongo said the negative effects of climate change have led to the increasing importance of the crop. "Prolonged dry seasons have encouraged farmers to resort to drought resistant crops such as sweet potato," he said.
   CIP potato science leader for sub-Saharan Africa Elmar Schulte said root and tuber crops are more productive compared to grains.
"The vines are widely consumed in sub- Saharan Africa except Kenya and Uganda," he said, adding that the leaves also have high potential to supply the raw material for animal feeds. "This could assist pastoralist communities who suffer from lack of animal fodder especially during dry periods," he said.
   The CIP official said the sweet potato could assist in areas that grow maize crop to gain resistance from the maize virus disease. "Crop rotation with legumes or potatoes is good as they help break the disease transmission cycle," he said.
   Schulte said sweet potato production is however vulnerable to attacks by weevil, which account for at least 60 per cent of losses from diseases. (Xinhua)

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