Adoption of orange-fleshed sweet potatoes by Ghanaian small farmers for nutritional and economic well-being


This presentation titled "The Adoption of Orange Flesh Sweet Potatoes by Ghanaian Small Farmers for Nutritional and Economic Well-Being," by Robert Zabawa, Eunice Bonsi, Conrad Bonsi, Prosper Doamekpor, Ellene Kebede, and Desmond Mortley, was delivered in 2011 at the Southern Rural Sociological Association Annual Meeting and the Association of Research Directors Biennial Symposium. This presentation is part of the project "Increasing nutrients in traditional diets with orange-fleshed sweet potatoes" in Ghana. The principal investigator on this project is Eunice Bonsi, Tuskegee University.

Problem statement: Nutritional deficiencies (e.g., Iron and Vitamin A) take heavy health and economic tolls on rural peoples across the globe, especially among young children and women.

The presentation describes iron deficiency anemia and vitamin A deficiency, and presents the sweet potato as a source for both iron (in the leaves) and vitamin A (in orange-fleshed varieties). It compares sweet potato status to other root crops in Ghana, noting that it lags behind cassava and yam in terms of production and food preference.

This research explores ways in which orange flesh sweet potatoes can be adopted by Ghanaian small farmers and introduced to the general public for increased health and economic benefits. Through the use of multidisciplinary teams that included plant science, extension, agricultural economics, nutrition and anthropology, it was found that adoption by farmers of a new variety of sweet potato was not based on a single production —marketing decision but, rather contingent on a series of adoption decisions by a series of actors and based in a value-added chain of production—processing—new product development, each with technical, economic and commercial considerations.

It describes sweet potato production and the agronomic advantages compared to other traditional leafy vegetables in Ghana (e.g. shorter, year-round production season, drought resistant, minimum input requirements), and sweet potato uses (traditionally "famine" food, snack food, and new culinary uses).

Research question: Can and will sweet potato be adopted as an additional food to enhance both the nutritional and economic well-being of Ghanaian small farmers?

The presentation describes Rogers' Characteristics of Innovations (relative advantage, compatibility, complexity, trialability, and observability), as well as strategic decision-making, adoption of agricultural technologies, and risk. Sweet potato leafy greens and orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are considered new technology innovations. 

Farmer and processor adoption decisions for orange-fleshed sweet potatoes include:

  1. Access to plants and quality potatoes
  2. Compatibility with existing farming and processing systems
  3. Any possible improvements to farming and processing systems
  4. Product and marketing possibilities

Key farmer constraints include labor and storage, while new innovations to consider include rows (vs. mounds), and mechanized technology (vs. manual labor). Key processor constraints include quality product and labor.

The baker adoption decision for orange-fleshed sweet potatoes include:

  1. Access to quality ingredients (e.g. puree)
  2. Compatibility with existing baking system
  3. Any possible improvements to processing system
  4. Product possibilities
  5. Consumer acceptance and willingness to pay


  • Three Adopters: Farmers, Processors and Bakers
  • Adoption decisions based on: compatibility, innovation, diversity and market risk
  • Potential in the individual market, additional potential in the value-added chain
  • Benefit to consumers with product choices