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Orange sweet potato increases intake of vitamin A in Mozambique

Orange sweet potato is rich in vitamin A (© HarvestPlus)
Orange sweet potato is rich in vitamin A
© HarvestPlus

Orange sweet potato is effective in providing vitamin A to malnourished women and children in Mozambique, where the prevalence of vitamin A deficiency* is very high, a new study has revealed. Bred to be rich in vitamin A, orange sweet potato was distributed to more than 10,000 households in northern Mozambique from 2007 to 2009 by HarvestPlus as part of the study. "Using agriculture to improve nutrition and public health is a powerful approach," says Dr. Christine Hotz, former HarvestPlus nutrition coordinator, who led the study.

The project resulted in 65 per cent of households adopting the crop and, on average, vitamin A intake doubled for both children and women. The study also revealed that orange sweet potato provided more than 70 per cent of all dietary vitamin A and was the third most important food in young children's diets after maize and rice. "We've now shown that you can scale up efforts to distribute orange sweet potato to poor rural communities and see this translate into increased vitamin A intakes especially in women and children, who are the most vulnerable to mineral and vitamin deficiencies," Hotz adds. The crop also provided more vitamin A than any other local food, including pumpkin, leafy green vegetables or mango.

Orange sweet potato has also been introduced in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe to combat vitamin A deficiency.

* Annually 250,000 to 500,000 pre-school children go blind from vitamin A deficiency globally and two thirds die within months of going blind

Date published: November 2011

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