By Rose Hoonan
Families in Africa are beginning to harvest orange-fleshed sweet potatoes to combat hunger, malnutrition, and poverty. Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, which the body can convert into vitamin A. Around 43 million children under the age of five in Africa are at risk for vitamin A deficiency, which can cause blindness, disease, and premature death. The harvest of this crop will help lower these numbers.
Not only can the nutrient-rich vegetable curb hunger and malnutrition, but it also is a marketable crop that families can sell to earn income. For instance, small-farm owner Margaret Simiyu of Western Kenya could earn up to $140 from her small patch of sweet potatoes that could produce around 600 pounds of roots. Better yet, the orange-fleshed sweet potato is ready to harvest in about three to four months – mush shorter than the six-month time span required for the less-nutritional white and yellow potato varieties available in Western Kenya. That means more food for those who are suffering from hunger and malnutrition, and more income for the Simiyu household.
Simiyu noticed health benefits from adding sweet potatoes to her family’s diet. Her son was born healthy, has never been sick, and started crawling earlier than her older children. In addition, her older children seem to get sick less often now. Through this, the sweet potato is curbing hunger and improving the health and wellness of families, giving people the opportunity to rise out of poverty.