The Lowly Sweet Potatoe That Saves Lives
In sub-Saharan Africa, vitamin A deficiency afflicts more than 43 million children under age 6, leaving them vulnerable to blindness, malaria and more. It’s inefficient to provide entire countries with pills, so plant scientists from HarvestPlus and the CIP are helping countries grow their own solutions—in the form of sweet potatoes.
The key is biofortification, or cross-breeding locally grown sweet potatoes with versions rich in vitamin A, so that over time the crops naturally get better at addressing the deficiency.
Plant scientists have also bred them to be more resistant to droughts (as Maria Andrade did in Mozambique) and viruses (as Robert Mwanga did in Uganda). This year, Andrade and Mwanga shared the World Food Prize for their work, alongside agricultural economist Jan Low and HarvestPlus founder Howarth Bouis.
Sweet potatoes may once have been seen as “a crop of the poor,” says Low, who’s helping to bring the super-spuds to more countries. Now they’re “a healthy crop for all.”