Reaching Agents of Change

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Case Studies
Agriculture, Food Security, Nutrition
​The International Potato Center and Helen Keller International
Publication Dates:
December, 2013
Content Formats:

This is one of 50 Harvesting Nutrition project case studies. Harvesting Nutrition was a contest held in 2012 and 2013 that showcased active projects working to improve the impact of agriculture and/or food security on nutrition outcomes. Co-sponsors were SecureNutrition, Save the Children UK, and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN). Learn More.

Project Description: ​

The overall vision of RAC is to contribute to the fight against vitamin A deficiency and food insecurity in Sub-Saharan Africa, and improve the health status and livelihoods of African households, particularly women of reproductive age and young children, through strategic policy advocacy and resource mobilization, and technical capacity building for large-scale use and dissemination of Vitamin A rich Orange-fleshed sweetpotato.

Impact of project: ​

Under capacity building, RAC has built capacities at two inter-related levels – three host-institutions[1] to deliver a three tier training of trainers’ course on “Everything you ever wanted to know about sweetpotato”, using adult learning techniques. About 146 specialist facilitators have been trained as trainers to step down the process within their organizations[2] or regions. RAC has also provided a course on “Engendered OFSP project planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation” to 48 agencies in the 5 target countries to ensure effective investment of OFSP resources. Under seed multiplication and dissemination, RAC has facilitated the production of clean planting materials (OFSP vines) to secondary multipliers for widespread distribution including spearheading the release of 2 OFSP varieties in Nigeria; to date, 10.8 ha of OFSP primary seed plots and 11.3 ha of secondary plots have been established reaching 123,113households with the vines. In advocacy, RAC has strengthened the capacity of 54 African advocates to engage and influence key decision makers, governments, private sector, philanthropists and donors to invest in OFSP projects along the value chain.  So far, about $ 10,377,399 has been raised in thethree primary countries for OFSP projects. “Clearly, RAC performed successfully in advocacy to introduce OFSP into agriculture policy documents at country and regional levels in spite of the challenge of low rank of sweetpotato among staple crops in terms of aggregate production and policy preoccupation with hunger in food policy agenda at national and regional levels…evidence provided by RAC shows that all targets for human capacity building were exceeded by large margins at halftime” concluded an external mid-term reviewer[3] 

Why this project is a Good Practice example: ​

Unlike other projects that focus on either building capacity for innovative technologies or piloting adoption of innovative technologies, RAC focuses on capacity for sustainable up-scaling/out-scaling with focus on policies, resource mobilization, capacity for seed multiplication and distribution, building links to markets (value chain approach) and nutrition education to drive demand for OFSP towards combating VAD. How we maximize impact:

  • Advocacy – building a cadre of national & regional advocates and champions; creating a regional advocacy platform. These are anchored and facilitated by RAC officials, but remain hosted in national institutions (public, private, NGOs and CBOs) to ensure sustainability,
  • Fund raising – focus on governments (national and regional) for policy change (sustainable support), private sector and CBOs (for sustainability) and other funders e.g. donors and NGOS
  • Nutrition Education – RAC engages mass media (television, radio and newspapers) to disseminate nutrition education relating to the value of OFSP to combat VAD. This in effect drives demand for OFSP as a food based approach to combat VAD.
  • Institutional capacity – strengthening the capacity of national training partners to deliver TOTs courses; capacity to design, source for funds, implement, monitor and evaluate OFSP projects (research & extension organizations - public and private - for long term support to develop OFSP (technology), seed distribution and adoption, nutrition and health – for effective utilization of OFSP to combat VAD, private sector for agro-processing and marketing of OFSP products. RAC also builds the capacity of partner agencies through customized project planning and implementation course to design fundable projects, implement, monitor and evaluate.

Impact Evaluation:

Impact evaluation in progress

Lessons Learned:

​The short RAC timeframe of 41 months with 34 months available for effective work constitutes a central challenge to the execution of the project. Such short timeframe for initiation and accomplishment of policy changes and institutional arrangements in support of RAC objectives is a difficult proposition, especially with limited number of staff, some of which are on part time engagement. It is challenging raising the profile of sweetpotato in the policy realm given its relatively low ranking among other commodities.  In the five years from 2007 to 2011, sweetpotato ranked fourth in terms of aggregate national production and importance in Mozambique, fifth in Tanzania and Nigeria. Yet, the significance of OFSP in combating VAD cannot be over-emphasized.

Achievement of vine multiplication was besieged with multiple challenges. Availability of suitable varieties on which the multiplication activity depends was not guaranteed in Tanzania and Nigeria. The Nigerian case was most challenging; there was no officially released variety at the inception of RAC. Furthermore, vine multiplication is necessarily a dry season activity so that vines are ready for use at onset of rains; irrigation is expensive and the multiplication carried out close to perennial water points overly expose the crop to pest and disease infestation.

By design, RAC made some assumptions which turned burdensome but offered great lessons. Some of the assumption made: that national/regional advocates/champions would play their roles without formal remuneration; less experienced promotion experts would facilitate more experienced advocates/champions; once trained, trainers would step-down the training without project funding; and that attracting meaningful small-grants through advocacy proposals within a short timeframe is feasible.

Funders: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Primary Contact: Adiel Mbabu, The International Potato Center, Project Manager

Country: Tanzania, Nigeria, Mozambique, Ghana, Burkina Faso

Project Dates: started in June 2011 ending in September 2014

Interventions: Incorporate explicit nutrition objectives and indicators, Assess the context at the local level, Facilitate production diversification, Incorporate nutrition promotion and education,

Target Population: Mothers, Children under 5,

Project Stage: Ongoing activities

Geographic Coverage: National

[1] Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania (SUA), University of Eduardo Mondlane in Mozambique (UEM) and the Agricultural and Rural and Managemement Training Institute in Nigeria (ARMTI) 
[2] To date, 910 participants have been trained through the step-down strategy, indicating that the course is on the right course to sustainability
[3] RAC Mid-term Review Report (2013). Unpublished-pgs 2,3

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