Nelly Bassily | July 22, 2013
Every culture has its staple foods. Cassava, maize, rice, potatoes, pastas and breads are popular in diets because they fill the belly, are relatively cheap and generally easy to prepare and cook. But problems arise when disease hits a staple crop. The Irish Potato Famine in the 1840s was caused by a fungus, potato blight, and led to the death or emigration of nearly 25 per cent of Ireland’s population.
Fortunately for the Kenyan farmers in this story, they were offered a new crop to replace cassava: orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, or OSFP.
OFSP is one of nature’s best sources of vitamin A (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitamin_A). Several recent studies have shown that sweet potatoes raise blood levels of vitamin A. This benefit may be particularly important for children. In several studies from Africa, a portion of sweet potatoes contained enough, on average, to meet 35% of an adult’s daily requirement for vitamin A, and in many cases enough to meet over 90% of children’s vitamin A needs. Read more here: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=64
It is estimated that 43 million children under 5 years of age in Sub-Saharan Africa are vitamin A-deficient. Globally, diseases related to inadequate vitamin A claim the lives of an estimated 670,000 young children annually. Vitamin A deficiency also poses a health threat to pregnant women and new mothers, contributing to maternal mortality and poor health outcomes during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Farm Radio International is involved in projects which seek to introduce farmers and consumers to the benefits of OFSP. You can read about them here: http://www.farmradio.org/portfolio/fighting-vitamin-a-deficiency-with-orange-fleshed-sweet-potato/
Farm Radio International is putting the power of radio drama to work in Uganda. A few weeks ago, we launched “My Children,” a radio drama series that aims to convince farmers to grow and eat orange-fleshed sweet potato. Find out more, and check out the available resources through this link: http://www.farmradio.org/portfolio/using-radio-drama-to-promote-orange-fleshed-sweet-potatoes-in-uganda/
From 2007-2009, HarvestPlus and its partners distributed orange-fleshed sweet potato to more than 24,000 households in Mozambique and Uganda. Read more about that project on their website: http://www.harvestplus.org/content/disseminating-orange-fleshed-sweet-potato-findings-harvestplus-project-mozambique-and-uganda. The report is available in English and Portuguese.