Sweet potatoes could prevent the global wheat crisis from taking root in Africa

Long before the war in Ukraine started, sending wheat futures spiraling, African researchers were experimenting with an alternative ingredient for baked goods: orange fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) puree. These efforts to diversify staple products like bread and chapati in Malawi as well as Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda by replacing as much as 60% of wheat flour are now buffering African food systems.

The important lesson here for other African countries is that potato and sweet potato are more than crisis crops that can fill a gap between harvests within three months to tide over the poorest. Rather, these staple crops can be a cornerstone of a nutritious, diverse and resilient food system, which can withstand the shockwaves of market crises by avoiding an over-reliance on single commodities.

The benefits of a more diverse, and therefore, resilient food system that makes the most of crops like sweet potato are manifold but require more investment and commitment to scale up production and unlock the full potential.

Going forwards, food scientists at the International Potato Center (CIP) are working closely with private sector partners in Kenya to develop the technology for producing shelf-stable purée, using microwave processing and aseptic packaging. The puree can be used as an ingredient in food products made by small and medium enterprises and the informal market sector, and with Kenya's wheat import bills estimated at $250 million, sweet potato puree offers a cost-effective, homegrown alternative.

Source: allafrica.com

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