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Beating blindness

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE: Marketing crops rich in vitamin-A in Ghana


With the shade of the building providing some relief from the mid-afternoon sun, farmers Samuel Azengo and Akolbire Nyaaba explain how their sweet potato production is going. 

“I have done the trial. I am now all in,” says Samuel. 

They are participating in a quantitative assessment by our iQ team, which will be paired with results from a qualitative deep dive administered by our Human-Centered Design team. We interviewed farmers to understand the successes and barriers to growing a very specific kind of sweet potato: an orange-fleshed sweet potato, high in Vitamin A.

Across Ghana, undernourishment is a critical issue that affects the lives and well-being of many people. Vitamin A is a particularly important nutrient in preventing blindness, specifically in children. A lack of the nutrient is also a contributing factor in one in three deaths of children under five years old in Ghana.

Samuel and Akolbire

Tracking responses on a mobile device, iDE staff member Ahmed Mubarik is able to collect and send survey information to our database in a flash. The results of the deep-dive analysis and quantitative assessment identify the barriers farmers face when adopting the orange-fleshed sweet potato. With these important insights, we may be able to overcome these barriers and significantly impact Vitamin A deficiency in Ghana. 

iDE PC Samuel 16x9

For many farmers, adding a new crop, such as sweet potatoes, is a risk, because they  have to buy new seeds and fertilizers, learn new agricultural methods, and worry about whether the crop will actually sell. For Samuel and Akolbire, the potential health benefits of the orange-fleshed sweet potato outweigh the risk. Helping farmers understand these benefits—and the cost of Vitamin A deficiencies—is a vital component to this project.  

For Samuel, the sweet potatoes he’s growing will provide his family with greater nutrition, but right now, he’s uncertain if he will expand his production to potentially grow them for the market.

One issue that Akolbire and some other farmers brought up is the difficulty in storing the sweet potatoes: without proper storage, their shelf-life is significantly shorter than other crops. This limits their options when selling orange-fleshed sweet potatoes at the market—they do not have the flexibility to wait until market prices rise before the produce spoils. 

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ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE: Improved toilets provide safety, dignity, and privacy in Ghana

The migration of young people from small villages and farms to the city opens up additional options for improving the lives of those who remain behind. Making improved toilets affordable can spur increasing sanitation coverage by marketing to this newly affluent group.


Read more: ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE: How young urban professionals are investing in improved toilets to honor their parents