The sweet potato crop is of high economic importance due to its short cycle (3-4 months) with the possibility of multiple planting cycles in a year, and can be intercropped as well. Sweet potato come in several varieties which include white-fleshed, cream-fleshed, orange-flesh and purple-fleshed.
The Orange-Fleshed Sweet potato (OFSP) root is bio fortified with beta-carotene thus heavily promoted to aid in the alleviation of Vitamin A deficiency particularly in children.
The sweet potato leaves contain appreciable amounts of micronutrients such as lutein, which could easily be incorporated into human food.
Through a partnership of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Crops Research Institute (CSIR-CRI) and the International Potato Centre (CIP) the Sweet Potato Training of Trainers (TOT) Short Course, “Everything you need to know about sweet potato” started in 2016.
It takes its root from the “Everything you ever wanted to know about sweet potato” course designed and implemented by the CIP under the “Reaching Agents of Change” project.
The TOT initiative is aimed at consolidating efforts to promote sweet potato particularly OFSP by building the capacity of national, non-governmental and individual implementing agencies to drive their uptake.
Over this period, a total of 51 individuals has received training from 13 countries in Africa, Asia and America.
Women and organizations committed to incorporating nutritious crops into their programs and product lines such as the WIAD under MoFA, Peace Corps and, World Vision have participated.
Whereas originally focusing on the previously named agencies and individuals, the recent edition centred on empowering the youth to play active roles along the sweet potato value chain through creating an avenue for student participation.
Participants for the training came from Ghana, Senegal and Mozambique and were fourteen in total. Their capacities were built in all aspects of the root and tuber value chain; production, processing and marketing.
Some topics covered included the origin and importance of sweet potato, OFSP and nutrition, role of gender in the sweet potato value chain, and basic training in Product Marketing, Costing and other aspects of running a business.
Participants were equipped with had hands-on skills in sweet potato varieties and their characteristics, sweet potato production and crop management, sweet potato pests and diseases and their management, selecting, preserving and multiplying sweet potato planting materials as well as harvesting, processing and postharvest management.
The sweet potato roots and leaves were processed into domestic and commercial products for utilization through practical cooking sessions. OFSP has several desirable sensorial attributes which include its sweet taste and unique flavour.
Thus, many products such as drinks, bakery products, complementary foods, crisps, yoghurt, gari among others have been developed from it.
Participants were exposed to how to effectively plan a dissemination programme, employ digital monitoring and evaluation tool, how to train others on “Everything you need to know about sweet potato”.
They also embarked on a learning journey where participants heard the experiences of Mr Emmanuel Amponsah, sweet potato farmer and processor, and Mrs Eunice Amoako, a sweet potato yoghurt producer both in the Central region of Ghana.
Almost all participants had ideas of creating OFSP based businesses on OFSP and shared their plans on implementing their new knowledge.
They indicated their readiness and willingness to train others in OFSP at the end of the short course.
Participants created action plans on ways of promoting sweet potato uptake and utilization in their localities which included the use of social media.
They expressed their gratitude to the organizers of the Training Course and hope that others also have the opportunity to benefit from it.
As Government creates more jobs through its flagship programs such as planting for food and jobs and one district one factory geared towards a Ghana beyond aid.
The youth are encouraged to be innovative in creating demand for sweet potato as it is earmarked as the crop for health and wealth creation.