Effectively Reducing Vitamin A Deficiency in Children and Women in Mozambique with Orange-fleshed Sweetpotato

Harvest Plus put out this press release today to highlight the importance of this study. Below is an excerpt:

“The OSP, conventionally bred to be rich in vitamin A, was distributed to more than 10,000 households in Zambezia Province in northern Mozambique . Many of these households traditionally grew and ate yellow or white sweet potato which are poor vitamin A sources. The project resulted in about 65% of households adopting OSP. While many farmers substituted OSP for yellow or white ones on their plots, a good number were ‘new’ sweet potato farmers. Due to adoption, household consumption of OSP and thus, vitamin A intakes, increased substantially. On average vitamin A intakes doubled for both children and women.

By project end, OSP provided more than 70% of all dietary vitamin A and was the third most important food in the diet (after maize and rice) for young children. OSP also provided more vitamin A than other local foods such as pumpkin, leafy green vegetables, or mango. Available for about 3 months of the year, or longer in other regions, OSP can help close the VAD gap, when other vitamin A-rich foods or supplements are not available.”

It is also important to note that sweetpotato requires fewer inputs and less labor than other staple crops, as well as tolerates marginal growing conditions, such as dry spells or poor soil. Sweetpotato provides more edible energy per hectare per day than wheat, rice, or cassava. Its ability to produce better yields in poor conditions with less labor makes sweetpotato particularly suitable as a crop for households threatened by migration, civil disorder, or diseases such as AIDS. Furthermore, sweetpotato is very versatile — its vines provide a high-protein, medium-energy animal feed. This sweet tuber is a classic food security crop — one that resource-poor farmers can rely on when other crops fail.

Harvest Plus Partners in Mozambique: Helen Keller International, International Food Policy Research Institute, International Potato Center (CIP), Natural Resources Institute-University of Greenwich, World Vision International, Institute of Agricultural Research of Mozambique (IIAM).

vitamin A