This little girl eating a piece of cooked orange sweet potato needs vitamin A to grow up healthy . photo: HarvestPlus

Orange sweet potato is something of a wonder crop that has been in the news lately.

This versatile root (not tuber) loaded with vitamin A is being widely promoted in Africa where people are in desperate need of this crucial micronutrient for better health (‘micro,’ because it’s needed in really small amounts).

In Africa, white or yellow types of sweet potato that have very little vitamin A are generally eaten. In a recent project targeting 24,000 poor rural households in Uganda and Mozambique, HarvestPlus and its partners introduced more nutritious orange sweet potato varieties through local NGOS. These varieties had been conventionally bred by CIP and scientists in Uganda and Mozambique. These new orange varieties were not only rich in vitamin A (hence the color) but also drought tolerant, virus resistant, and high yielding, to boot.

As a result, there was a huge increase in vitamin A intake from eating more of the orange sweet potato among young children, older children, and women. These are the groups that need additional vitamin A the most.

Full results from the project will be forthcoming next year, but in the meantime, you can read how orange sweet potato improved the life of one Ugandan family. Also, dig deeper into the technical details of our orange sweet potato strategy.

HarvestPlus is also breeding more nutritious varieties of other staple food crops that poor people throughout the developing world eat every day. These new crops are no magic bullet, but they may prove to be among the most cost-effective ways to reduce hidden hunger—by using familiar food that people already grow and eat.

Video: Orange Sweet Potato at World Food Day in Uganda