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Climate-resilient, nutritious, sweetpotato is perfectly placed to deliver food security and boost incomes even in the driest parts of sub-Saharan Africa which can receive as little as just four glasses of water every year. Triple S, an innovative seed system method developed by CIP, is helping sweetpotato farmers to have access to the right seeds, in the right place, and at the right time, ready for the rains to come.

The severity and duration of droughts around the world is increasing because of climate change. At least 1.5 billion people are affected including the 300 million people who depend on crops like sweetpotato, potato, and yam for their nutrition security and their livelihoods.

Sweetpotato is a popular and nutritious staple food around the world that is particularly suited to drought-affected areas. Once established it has little need for water. It also matures quickly and can thrive in poor soils. Its resilience is one of the reasons the International Potato Center selected orange-fleshed sweetpotato varieties as a tool to help reduce vitamin-A deficiency through a biofortification program that has, so far, reached seven million households, with the potential to reach millions more. Vitamin A deficiency currently affects the health and development of 140 million children globally, with a particularly high prevalence in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

However, despite all the benefits that sweetpotato brings to the table, one major constraint remains: Farmers lack timely access to quality seed.

“As rainfall patterns become more unpredictable, farmers need to be able to take advantage of whatever rain there is, as quickly as possible,” says Margaret McEwan, a senior scientist at CIP. “But they are not always able to get healthy planting materials at the time they need them. We designed the Triple S innovation package to help farmers conserve their seed supply through the long dry season, which can last several months. It is a gamechanger for food security as it means farmers can count on early harvests of this  nutritious resilient crop.”

Store, Sand, Sprout
‘Storage in Sand and Sprouting’ – or Triple S – is a method developed by scientists at CIP to ensure that farmers can conserve sweetpotato roots during the dry season, so they can sprout and multiply quality vines just when they are needed. Through Triple S, each root produces around 40 cuttings. Households can also plant early which means the early availability of nutritious food, up to 30% higher yields, and 14% higher income from the sale of vines and roots compared to using conventional seed sources which need to be planted later due to the dry conditions. “The approach also needs to be flexible to work in different contexts,” continues McEwan. “For example, in Malawi, some families were eating the stored roots before the planting season arrived, so we adapted the Triple S method to store roots for consumption as well as for planting material.”

Source of original article: International Potato Center (
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