Addressing malnutrition and food security with nutritious orange-fleshed sweet potato


Malnutrition is a major public health problem in Ethiopia, particularly for women and children. According to the 2019 Ethiopia Mini Demographic and Health Survey, 37% of children under five years are stunted (chronic malnutrition) and 7% are underweight. This requires promoting an integrated food-based approach to mitigate malnutrition. Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes (OFSP) are fast-growing vitamin A rich nutritious crops that can help reduce malnutrition, deliver improved food security and nutrition outcomes.

Consequently, the Ethiopian and German governments established bilateral relations to work on food and nutrition security. 

Global Programme on Food and Nutrition Security, Enhanced Resilience

The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has launched the One World - No Hunger Initiative with the objective of enhancing rural development and food and nutrition security through development cooperation, focusing intensely on the improvement of nutrition for women and children.

The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH was commissioned by the BMZ to implement the “Food and Nutrition security, enhanced resilience” programme, currently implemented in 10 countries in Africa and Asia. The overall objective is to improve the nutrition of young children and women of childbearing age with a specific focus on the “1,000 days’ window of opportunity”; from conception to the child’s second birthday which has a long-term effect on a child’s health and future quality of life.  

As part of its national development agenda, Ethiopia has been implementing different strategies and programmes to ensure food and nutrition security such as the National Nutrition Program, Food and Nutrition Policy, National Food and Nutrition Strategy, and the Seqota Declaration through multi-sectoral nutrition coordination and integration. In line with this, the Nutrition Sensitive Agriculture Project (NSAP) works in close collaboration and coordination with the Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) and the Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH). The project is implementing different nutrition interventions to mitigate malnutrition in rural communities.

Targeting food-insecure people with Social and Behavior Change Communication

As part of the Global programme “Food and Nutrition Security, Enhanced Resilience”, NSAP focuses on enhancing food and nutrition security primarily through agriculture and nutrition education since 2015. The project aims to improve the nutrition of food-insecure people, in selected districts (woredas) in rural areas in Ethiopia. Since January 2018, the project and its partners has been implementing different nutrition related activities in 12 woredas comprising of nearly 60 kebeles.

Furthermore, NSAP has developed various Social and Behavior Change Communications  foster positive nutrition behaviors among the intended target groups. This strategically imparts knowledge on the importance of a diverse diet and improves nutrition habits within the target groups.

In partnership with the MoA, FMoH and International Potato Center, NSAP works to promote OFSP adoption in its intervention areas. Consequently, women recognize that the availability of diversified food is necessary for improved health for the family and society.

The use of orange-fleshed sweet potatoes to complement diets and to strengthen food and nutrition security in farming communities is promoted in the intervention areas of the project.

OFSP for improved nutrition and food security

With actions taken, the project seeks to address malnutrition by enhancing the availability of OFSP from input distribution to providing training on how to grow and prepare the crop. To date, 1,888 rural households have received 308,000 OFSP cuttings and are encouraged to cultivate the sweet potatoes to improve their diets.

In addition, a healthy feeding practice for young children and their mothers is introduced through training and practical cooking demonstrations increasing awareness about good nutrition practices and enhanced intake and access to diversified nutrition. Women’s awareness of nutrition is enhanced because they receive the opportunity to participate in small-scale nutrition sensitive farming of OSP which adequately meets the daily dietary requirements of a family.

More than 32,000 participants have been trained in appropriate nutrition, propagated hygiene measures and nutrition-sensitive and climate-adapted agriculture. They receive comprehensive knowledge on how to produce appropriate complementary food. An additional 24,000 participants were also trained in cultivating home gardens which helped them to develop a home garden and expand food production as well as create awareness about water-saving measures and simple rainwater-collection technologies.

Strengthening resilience of rural households

Improving the consumption and utilisation of a diversified and nutritious diet encompasses activities done by the project in the promotion of home gardening (vegetable seeds distributed), customised water access, and poultry management. These activities have increased the availability of planting materials and knowledge to farmers. Those who participated in cooking demonstrations have now started cooking nutrition-rich sweet potato blending it with other locally available foods to consume diversified food with their families.

The health and social status of women has a great impact on the health of their children and future generations. Implementing healthy nutrition and educating the family is paying off in the practice of healthy eating.


About the project
As part of the Global programme “Food and Nutrition Security, enhanced resilience”, Nutrition Sensitive Agriculture - NSA project (since March 2015) works to improve the food and nutrition situation for women and children. Together with its partners, the project provides training on cultivating home gardens, water-saving measures, and simple rainwater-collection technologies to support rural householders to run a home garden and expand food production. Improved access to diverse food supports a social behavior change that targets nutrition behaviors and knowledge exchange on the importance of a diverse diet. To find out more follow the link to the project page below. 



Author: Sefanit Minwuyelet
Photographer: ©GIZ/Claudia Ruff
Publishing date: 11.11.2021