The Sweetpotato for Health and Wealth in Nigeria, a project sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) and implemented by the International Potato Centre in six states, namely: Nasarawa, Benue, Ebonyi, Kaduna, Kwara, and Osun, as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), is now in the University.
During the test-running exercise of baking bread with Orange-Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP) Puree, the Project Food Scientist, Dr. Ganiyat Olatunde, stated that the main objective behind the idea was to build a community of practice that would effectively help to reduce food insecurity, malnutrition and poverty in Nigeria, by leveraging on the benefits of OFSP, as well as improving market opportunities for the various types of sweetpotato. The test was supervised by Antonio Magnaghi, Tawanda Muzhingi and Dr. Justus Manje of the International Potato Centre, Nairobi, Kenya, while the other implementing institutions are the National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike (NRCRI); the Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro and the Helen Keller International (HKI).
Dr. Olatunde, who revealed the market characterization of the project, said even though several varieties of sweetpotato were produced and supplied in large quantities to markets across Nigeria, the OFSP variety was still in short supply. According to her, “FUNAAB has been working with selected enterprises to establish process and quality parameters for bread and sweetpotato crisps while its economic viability is also being documented”. She said that technical research had shown that substituting wheat flour in bread with up to 30 percent OFSP puree, gave acceptable level of loaf and sensory properties, adding that through adaptive research with one of the enterprises in Abuja, sweetpotato crisps from OFSP roots were now being sold in markets across the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and was in high demand and that work was going on to include OFSP roots in other baked and fried products. Dr. Olatunde said that FUNAAB was one of the collaborating partners playing the role of developing value-added products from OFSP, due to the advantages it had over other potato species and there are two different stages: product development and commercial viability of the product.
The project is being coordinated by an Agricultural Economist and the Principal Investigator, Professor Adewale Dipeolu, who said there was supply of the OFSP in some localities in Ogun State. Professor Dipeolu, who is the Director, Centre for Entrepreneurial Studies (CENTS) of FUNAAB, highlighted some economic benefits of OFSP to include the quality of being converted into puree for the baking of bread, cakes and pastries. The Principal Investigator said that some people also use the OFSP to garnish their rice before eating, while some eat it directly. On where OFSP would be in the next five years, the don stated that agriculture was bound to be the ‘oil’ of the nation’s economy, saying that there should be alternatives just as cassava bread, hence there should be sweetpotato bread, sweetpotato juice, among others.