A community fights malnutrition with local leafy vegetables

    | April 15, 2013

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    This week’s story from Burkina Faso shows how mothers are learning to grow foods rich in nutrients such as vitamin A, iron and zinc. Our script of the week also talks about these micronutrients. Unlike macronutrients such as calcium and magnesium, micronutrients are needed in smaller amounts. But they are essential for good health.

    When people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies, we say they have hidden hunger. They may be getting enough calories and not appear malnourished, but their health can suffer greatly. Millions of people, especially those who live in rural areas, eat staple foods like rice, maize, cassava and bananas that fill their stomachs, but may not provide them with enough micronutrients.

    Crop breeders have started to develop crops with higher levels of micronutrients, such as orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, which contain much higher levels of vitamin A. But there are many indigenous African leafy vegetables with high levels of vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients.

    While these local vegetables are currently being ignored or underutilized, they have many benefits. Aside from being nutritious, their seeds are readily available, they are well-adapted to local conditions, and many mature in only 40 to 60 days, which means that farmers can harvest them several times a year. This script talks about the journey some Ghanaian villagers took towards wise use of these nutritious traditional foods.