Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) has been a public health concern in developing countries including Ghana. Strategies to control VAD include dietary diversification, biofortification and vitamin A supplementation.

Dietary diversification which involves utilization of beta-carotene-rich crops such as orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP), yellow cassava and yellow maize has been the cheapest means of alleviating VAD.

Public awareness on beta-carotene-rich crops and their utilization is therefore, critical in sensitizing the public on the importance of nutritious staples as food and for supporting livelihoods. To ensure food and health security, and wealth creation along crop value chains, a mini food fair dubbed “Building Livelihood on Nutritious Staples” was jointly organized by CSIR-Crops Research Institute (CSIR-CRI), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), International Potato Center (CIP), Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and University of Ghana (UG) in Kumasi. It was funded by HarvestPlus project and CIP.

Dr. Ernest Baafi, a research scientist who represented the Director of CSIR- CRI, recounted the public health significance of VAD and encouraged all participants to fully participate in the food fair. He indicated that CSIR-CRI had developed and released two orange-fleshed sweetpotato varieties (CRI-Apomuden and CRI-Bohye), six orange maize varieties (Crops-Dzifoo, Crops- Ahoɔfɛ, CRI-Ɔdomfo, CRI-Ɔnwanwa, Crops-Ahoɔdzen, CRI-Honampa), three yellow maize varieties (CRI-Golden Jubilee, CRI-Aziga, CRI-Abontem) and one yellow-root cassava variety (Lamesese), all with the goal of reducing VAD in Ghana and the sub-region. These varieties could be used for preparing fufu, banku and ampesi, yoghurt, cakes, bread and chips. He encouraged the public especially farmers to contact CSIR-CRI for information on production and utilization of vitamin A-rich crops.

Dr. (Mrs.) Elizabeth Parkes, a cassava breeder at IITA stated that cassava, maize and sweetpotato varieties with enhanced pro-Vitamin A content are important for pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under five (5) years, for good health and eyesight. She said in areas where cassava is consumed as a major staple, vitamin A deficiency has been identified as one of the major micronutrient deficiencies. Therefore, the introduction of yellow-flesh cassava containing pro Vitamin A, yellow maize and orange-fleshed sweetpotato in affected communities was meant to address health challenges associated with vitamin A deficiencies.

Dr. Ted Carey, the West Africa sub-regional manager of CIP, observed that Ashanti Region had the highest number of micronutrient deficiency cases in Ghana. There was the need for the promotion of orange-fleshed varieties that can effectively and sustainably reduce vitamin A deficiency at the community level to improve public health. He stressed that under the Sweetpotato for Profit and Health Initiative, a coalition of partners were seeking to improve the livelihoods of about 10 million households in seventeen countries in sub-Saharan Africa by 2020. In Ghana institutions such as CIP, CSIR-CRI, Ghana Health Services, MoFA and the universities had targeted 460,000 households under the programme.

Prof. Matilda S. Asiedu from the University of Ghana expressed concern about the deficiency of micro nutrients in humans, hence the need to get vitamin A in various diets and food forms.

The participants were impressed about the variety of food products derived from improved Pro – vitamin A crops. They suggested that such fairs should be organized regularly to create awareness for the public. Seeds and planting materials of vitamin A crop varieties should also be made available for farmers.Food products such as kenkey, yoghurt, cake, gari, French fries, bread and pancake made from Pro-vitamin A cassava, maize and sweetpotato were exhibited for the general public to taste.

Dr. Ernest Baafi, CSIR-CRI research scientist, giving the Director’s address

                                                                                     A section of the participants at the Fair.

                                                                                              Dr. (Mrs.) Elizabeth Parkes in a media interview.

                                                                              The participants, including school children were served with pro-vitamin A products.