Sweet potato to become key to fight malnutrition

Global Business

Sweet potato to become key to fight malnutrition

This year’s World Food Prize went to four scientists determined to make the humble sweet potato a key in fighting malnutrition. An improved version of sweet potatoes will be more nutritious and tasty still.

CCTV America’s Mimi Chiahemen reports.

Sweet potato to become key to fight malnutrition

Sweet potato to become key to fight malnutrition

This year’s World Food Prize went to four scientists determined to make the humble sweet potato a key in fighting malnutrition. An improved version of sweet potatoes will be more nutritious and tasty still. CCTV America’s Mimi Chiahemen reports.

According to Howarth Bouis, founder of HarvestPlus, the poor usually get enough sustenance from food staples. “The maize, for example, is the basic food staple in Africa that keeps them from going hungry, but it doesn’t provide the dietary quality that they need.”

The International Potato Center has teamed up with Harvest Plus, to lead a global effort to make certain staple foods more nutritious and readily available. Their focus has been on the sweet potato, a good source of Vitamin A which is important for good eyesight.

Four scientists – Maria Andrade of Cape Verde, Robert Mwanga of Uganda, Jan Low of the United States and Howarth Bouis, the founder of HarvestPlus – have come up with a breakthrough achievement: using genetic engineering to create staple foods with higher nutrient content.

Participants in the sweet potato growing program in Africa report, their children are healthier.

However, globally, it’s estimated that 2 billion people still do not get all the vitamins and micro-nutrients they need.

“But we have a small amount of seed and we’re multiplying the seed,” Bouis explained. “And there are a lot of activities that we need to undertake to scale up.”

The World Food Prize focused on sweet potatoes this time, but scientists are working on improving other staple crops including orange maize and yellow cassava and also iron-rich beans. UNICEF has set a goal of ending malnutrition by 2030.