Reducing vitamin A deficiency with orange-fleshed sweet potato

Reducing vitamin A deficiency with orange-fleshed sweet potato
Voice of women farmers
This project is part of the Her Farm Radio initiative
While all FRI projects are designed to be accessible and relevant to both men and women, Her Farm Radio projects place particular focus on the voice and knowledge needs of women farmers across Africa. Learn more.

 

Vitamin A  is important for fighting infections, growth, bone development and overall health, yet vitamin A deficiency is a widespread health challenge in sub-Saharan Africa. Approximately 250,000 to 500,000 malnourished children in the developing world go blind each year from a lack of vitamin A.  Globally, inadequate vitamin A claims the lives of an estimated 670,000 young children annually. Vitamin A deficiency also poses a health threat to pregnant women and new moms.

But there is a simple source of vitamin A: sweet potatoes. In many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, sweet potatoes are a staple crop for farming families. However, the traditional African sweet potato is dull yellow – not bright orange like the ones we find in Canadian or American supermarkets. This is a problem because bright orange is the colour of foods that are rich in beta carotene – vitamin A. After 15 years of research, new varieties of African sweet potato have been bred (not using GM) that contain much more beta-carotene without affecting their taste or texture. This “orange-fleshed sweet potato” (OFSP) is a highly nutritious crop that has health benefits for pregnant women, new mothers and young children. Increasing the consumption (especially by children) of OFSP is an excellent approach to reducing vitamin A deficiency.

The challenge now is to get this crop to the farms and dinner plates of mothers, pregnant women and young children. The goal of this project is to promote the production and consumption of OFSP using participatory radio and ICTs. This three-year project is conducted in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Helen Keller International, The International Potato Centre and the Sweet Potato Action for Security and Health in Africa (SASHA). It aims to add OFSP to at least 500,000 rural households’ diets in Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana, and Burkina Faso.