As mentioned in a post from last year, I co-authored a chapter with Sheila Rao on orange flesh sweet potato (OFSP) in Tanzania. This has now been published in a book edited by James Sumberg of IDS, in the United Kingdom.
Recent efforts to promote orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) across sub-Saharan Africa demonstrate the strength of the idea that the production and marketing of new crop varieties can provide health and other benefits to farm families and consumers. Campaigns promoting biofortified crops are targeting millions of farmers in fifteen Sub-Saharan African countries in an effort to address malnutrition. Although biofortification has been relatively uncontested as a form of nutritional intervention, and there is some evidence that biofortified crops can positively affect nutritional status, it has become increasingly clear in Tanzania that OFSP production and sale by smallholders has not yet reached the scale that was originally envisaged.
This chapter critically examines the ways in which the production of a nutritious crop promoted for sale and household consumption by smallholder farmers, a crop that is well suited to local conditions, and for which a ready market is said to exist, actually relies on complex and highly interventionist approaches. These interventionist approaches involve sustained funding from private donors, training, and related actions from the state, NGOs and research institutes associated with development-oriented agronomy. Our analysis suggests that the idea that OFSP can be seamlessly introduced into existing smallholder production systems and local markets is not realistic. It appears that OFSP promotion has required the ‘creation’ of markets for the crop, as well as outreach and awareness-raising activities, and promotion more generally, which must be sustained over an extended period in order to have a lasting effect.