Ghana: Prisoners’ health improved by orange-fleshed sweet potatoes

    | September 30, 2013

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    Mr. Eric Mireku is the superintendent of the Ankaful Main Camp Prison near Ghana’s Cape Coast. One day, Mr. Mireku was listening to a program on Radio Central when his attention was captured by a piece on orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, or OFSP.

    He recalls, “I heard certain farmers testifying to their potency.” He was intrigued when he heard that the crop could counter symptoms of vitamin A deficiency such as skin diseases and night blindness. The program he was listening to is called Apomuden. It is produced by Radio Central, in association with Farm Radio International, as part of a five-country campaign to boost production and consumption of OFSP, and thereby reduce vitamin A deficiency.

    From his 28 years working at the prison, Mr. Mireku is familiar with the symptoms of vitamin A deficiency. Mr. Mireku says, “Many inmates suffer from scabies and skin diseases.” They often have poor vision or go blind.

    For Mr. Mireku, OFSP seemed like a new way to improve inmates’ health. So he decided to find some.

    He recognized the voice of the radio program’s host because the two attend the same church. Ms. Victoria Dansoa Abankwa hosts Radio Central’s Apomuden program, and is an OFSP educator and vine distributor. She also works as an extension officer in charge of women in agriculture for the Cape Coast region. Mr. Mireku talked to Ms. Abankwa at their church.

    Shortly after, Ms. Abankwa delivered one thousand cartons of OFSP vines to the prison. She says: “For me, it’s a plus because it improves the health of the inmates there. They use them to do farming … they produce crops for their own consumption.”

    Ms. Abankwa believes that inmates could use their new agricultural skills to become farmers after they are released. She believes that once they have served their time, ex-prisoners will want to continue growing their own food. And, because they will have discovered the benefits of a healthy diet, their harvests will include vitamin A-rich OFSP.

    For more information on the OFSP campaign, visit the Farm Radio International website: