Sometimes the best solution to a complex problem is the simplest. In the Lake Victoria region of Tanzania, communities are tackling the root causes of blindness and malnutrition by switching from white-fleshed to orange-fleshed sweet potatoes.
Complex problems, simple solutions: eat orange for sight and life-saving vitamin A.
Lake Victoria Region, Tanzania
MARY KABATI [Coordinator for HKI's Local Partner]
The sweet potato is very important to a Tanzanian woman, especially one who comes from around Lake Victoria. Sweet potatoes have been there for years, but they are mostly white-fleshed. Those are the ones that you commonly see at the market. Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are quite different. They have good color; you want to eat them. In addition, they have an added value of vitamin A.
Complex problems, simple solutions: vitamin A deficiency is the number one cause of childhood blindness and also compromises the immune system, increasing risk of death. HKI promotes the production and consumption of vitamin A-rich foods like orange-fleshed sweet potatoes to reduce vitamin A deficiency.
When we heard about the orange-fleshed sweet potatoes and their importance to health, we thought that now is the time to move from white-fleshed and introduce the orange-fleshed sweet potatoes to our target communities.
MARGARET BENJAMIN [HKI Nutrition Coordinator]
We think that promoting orange-fleshed sweet potatoes will be a very good idea, since it is a nutrient-rich crop with a lot of vitamin A. Our children will be having a double advantage: they are having a vitamin A-rich food as well as getting the calories that they need for the day.
THERESA KIYEGA [Mother and Farmer]
At first we were surprised because we had different potato seeds. But after we harvested, they were all the same - sweet and soft. We like them.
We found out that they were very popular among women and children.
We planted the seeds on the fourth of January, and after one month we weeded, and we weeded again one month after that. In April, the potatoes were ready to be harvested. In May we were taught to cook them differently. Now we cook them on our own.
With the orange-fleshed sweet potato, you can prepare a variety of dishes. You can prepare good weaning food like porridge. You can prepare some samosas, cakes, biscuits, crisps, which also can be marketable. If you want to have a good income, instead of just selling fresh roots, you can sell products.
Now that we have completed the training, we see that this program will bring us great benefits if we receive it well and work on it. We will improve the income in the family. If I roast the potatoes, we will be able to sell the chips.
Once the communities were told about the benefits of vitamin A, they nicknamed the potato, "medicinal potato," because it does so many things for the body. I think we can make it so that the children will not be deficient in vitamin A anymore.