McKnight Case Study Explores Two Decades of Triumphs and Pitfalls for CCRP Orange-fleshed Sweetpotato Projects

Available now: “From Breeding to Nutrition: Orange-fleshed sweetpotatoes in farming and food systems of Uganda, Kenya and Burkina Faso. A case study of projects commissioned by the McKnight Foundation’s Collaborative Crop Research Program, 1994-2014.” By Anja Christinck, Marthe Diarra Doka, Gottfried Horneber, Grace Kagoro Rugunda, Grégoire Palé, and Cory William Whitney.

For 20 years, the Collaborative Crop Research Program invested in the breeding, dissemination, and utilization of orange‐fleshed sweetpotatoes (OFSP). Work of Uganda’s National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) and partners between 1995-2013 resulted in the development of 20 new sweetpotato varieties, several which were orange-fleshed (vitamin-A biofortified) and pest-resistant (tolerant of viruses and weevils). The global significance of the Ugandan sweetpotato project was recognized in October 2016 when CCRP grantee Robert Mwanga of NARO was among the four co-recipients of the 2016 World Food Prize, which emphasized the development and implementation of biofortification.

The OFSP case study, below, discusses many of the successes and challenges of the three interrelated CCRP-funded sweetpotato projects in the Eastern and West Africa regions. Not only did the work yield several varieties of orange-fleshed sweetpotato crops, but the project’s capacity building efforts also fostered the education and professional credentials of several African crop scientists who would achieve international renown. Mwanga’s collaborative research team also advanced scientific understanding of sweetpotato genetics and defensive biochemistry. Distribution of OFSP planting material was difficult, however, and roadblocks to sweetpotato dissemination are discussed in detail. Kenya’s diversity management project workers observed increases in efficiency of cross-institutional learning and cooperation, but struggled with integrating the knowledge gleaned from diverse regional activities. Improvements to nutritional values in processed foods derived from orange-fleshed sweetpotatoes in Burkina Faso were driven by project enhancements, but questions concerning clarity of roles among project participants along with weaknesses in regional product delivery chain nodes hampered production and marketing.