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Frontiers of Science 2021

Sustainability: How Science Can Help Achieve
the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals

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Building Healthier Food Systems for Sub-Saharan Africa With Nutritious, Resilient Orange-Fleshed Sweetpotato

January 23, 2021
Presented by Jan W. Low
Principal Scientist, International Potato Center (CIP)

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Jan Low for the 2021 Frontiers of Science.

Many are calling for us to learn from the pandemic, and build back a better, healthier, more inclusive food system in sub-Saharan Africa. Few crops are as genetically diverse as hexaploid sweet potato. In sub-Saharan Africa, it can grow from sea level to 2,400 meters. Orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) types, which have only been heavily promoted during the past two decades, are very rich sources of provitamin A and many other vitamins and minerals. Just one small root of OFSP meets the daily vitamin A needs of a young child, and a plot of 500 square meters can meet the needs of a family of five under rainfed conditions. This presentation will describe how OFSP can contribute to and fit into an improved food system, noting the bottlenecks that still need to be addressed to unleash its full potential.

Jan W. Low is currently a principal scientist with the International Potato Center (CIP), based in their regional office for Africa in Nairobi, Kenya. During the past decade, she managed the Sweetpotato Action for Security and Health in Africa (SASHA) research project and coled the Sweetpotato for Profit and Health Initiative (SPHI). The SPHI was a multipartner, multidonor initiative that reached 6.3 million African households in 15 target countries with improved varieties of sweet potato, promoting their diversified use. Low obtained her doctorate in agricultural economics at Cornell University, minoring in nutrition. Having worked over 25 years in sub-Saharan Africa, she has focused with her team at CIP on developing and promoting biofortified orange-fleshed sweet potato to combat vitamin A deficiency. Low also served as president of the African Potato Association (APA) from 2011 to 2013. In 2016, along with two CIP sweet potato breeders (Maria Andrade and Robert Mwanga) and Howarth Bouis of HarvestPlus, Low was awarded the World Food Prize for her work on biofortification.

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