Orange-fleshed sweet potato : the history, adoption, effect and potential of a nutritionally superior staple crop in Mozambique
Jenkins, Mica Jeanette
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The purpose of this research is to understand the history and effectiveness of orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) interventions in Mozambique as well as to identify factors that influence the adoption and retention of this crop. To achieve this purpose, an in-depth literature review was conducted to collate a time line of events surrounding OFSP introduction. Primary research was carried out to explore remaining challenges associated with improving adoption and retention levels and involved interviews and focus groups with 95 participants including farmers, consumers, and market vendors of OFSP. Field research was carried out in three provinces of Mozambique over a nine month period in 2015 with funding provided by the Fulbright US student program. Interviews and focus groups were translated and transcribed verbatim by the researcher and were analyzed by a team of authors to understand the site-specific factors affecting farmer willingness and ability to procure, preserve, cultivate, and distribute OFSP varieties, with a particular interest in the retention of planting material over time. Diffusion of Innovations Theory was utilized in the research design, analysis, and reporting. Results indicate that a wide variety of factors influence adoption and retention of orange-fleshed sweet potato, including: awareness of health benefits; organoleptic qualities and taste preferences; access to planting material; perceived difference in agronomic traits, including pest and drought resistance, time to root maturity, and vine development; dependence on non-government organizations or neighbors for planting material; lack of access to capital for inputs and labor; unstable markets and fluctuating prices; and varying levels of sharing of information and planting material across farmer networks. Future research should focus on mechanisms to increase year-round availability of planting material, improved drought and pest tolerance for OFSP, understanding farmer preference for vine and leaf development, renewed emphasis on nutritional benefits and cooking methods for sweet potato derivatives, gender dynamics of sweet potato commercialization, and farmer training on improved agricultural techniques that highlights the agronomic similarities between OFSP and WFSP to avoid perceptions that OFSP production is more labor intensive.