Spreading the Word

At a Glance: 

Margaret Benjamin of HKI-Tanzania discusses their successful efforts to raise awareness about the benefits of Orange Fleshed Sweet Potatoes through working with the Reaching Agent of Change (RAC) project.

The Reaching Agent of Change (RAC) project advocates for improved policy and increased investment in the distribution of Orange Fleshed Sweet Potatoes (OFSP). It is a highly nutritious crop, full of micronutrients that are crucial for reducing hunger and Vitamin A deficiency. Through the RAC project, HKI-Tanzania was advocating for investment, conducive policy environment, and capacity building for OFSP among different partners in both government and non-government institutions.

The importance of increasing OFSP intake was the primary focus of the project, but we did not have enough resources to build awareness within the communities. In order to make the biggest impact with the funds we had, in addition to ensuring that nutrition was being advocated for at the national level in Tanzania, policy makers and media teams became the primary project audience. We were able to reach out to our audience by publicizing OFSP at major national events that key policy makers were likely to attend. Two media advocates were also designated for the project, who worked towards synthesizing and publishing OFSP related articles in print and electronic media.

We integrated OFSP into the National Agriculture Exhibitions (Nanenane) and World Food Day. Our electronic media advocate was able to develop a documentary about OFSP that was broadcasted on Tanzanian television. Our print media advocate developed and published two articles, and then three more articles were produced by other journalists who had been influenced by our advocate’s work.

The success of our media campaign had become clear. Awareness of the project began to spillover, prompting interest for further investment in OFSP even outside of the priority zones we had specified for this project. As reported by Hnr Jenister Mhagama who is now the Deputy Minister of Education and a member of Parliament for Peramiho - Songea,

I was driving to work while listening to the radio one day. I heard them talking about Orange Fleshed Sweet Potatoes and I became aware of the benefits they would provide to the people I lead. I wrote a letter to the Ministry of Agriculture requesting support of orient farmers in Peramiho, since they already grow white potatoes. Supporting them to grow the nutrient rich sweet potatoes would be a great benefit to the farmers’ families.”

By organizing orientation to the wider group of journalists, OFSP coverage was noted in a number of media houses including radio, in addition to an increase in the number of articles related to OFSP published in newspapers and Swahili newsletters. As a result of our efforts, ten articles and two documentaries have been produced, as well as radio and television coverage, all related to building awareness about the benefits of Orange Fleshed Sweet Potatoes.