Orange sweet potato. Source: flickr (HarvestPlus)
Conventionally-bred varieties of orange sweet potato (OSP) that provide high amounts of vitamin A are being used to combat vitamin A deficiency in regions of Africa where sweet potato is a staple food. From 2007-09, pilot programs successfully disseminated OSP to more than 24,000 households in Uganda and Mozambique, and assessed the impact.
The project led to a 68 percent increase in the adoption of OSP in Mozambique and a 61 percent increase in Uganda. In both countries, there was substantial substitution of orange sweet potato for traditional white or sweet potato varieties that are low in vitamin A. This level of substitution was enough to ensure that the daily vitamin A requirements were met for many children and women.
A key factor in the project’s success was the critical role played by women, not only as caregivers of young children, but also as producers and retailers of OSP. In project areas, 60 percent or more farmers were women. As a result of increased OSP consumption, Vitamin A intake for women and children doubled in Mozambique. In Uganda, vitamin A intake increased by two-thirds for children and nearly doubled for women. For the age of greatest concern, children aged six to 35 months, orange sweet potato contributed 78 percent of the total vitamin A intake in Mozambique and 53 percent in Uganda.
HarvestPlus is now scaling-up OSP to reach another 225,000 households by 2016. The International Potato Center (CIP) plans to scale-up OSP to reach more than 600,000 households in 10 countries by 2015, including 120,000 households in Mozambique.