When I was in Sudan, two young sisters caught my heart. They were so sweet, laughing, and loving. They were also blind.
“Vitamin A deficiency,” one of the workers told me. “That’s what happens when children live on meal.”
Yes. In sub-Saharan Africa, more than 43 million children under the age of 6 are vitamin A deficient. And that leaves them vulnerable to blindness, as well as to a host of other serious health threats. Pills are available, but not enough for large areas, let alone entire countries. A better plan is to grow vitamin A. Especially in the form of sweet potatoes.
The best plan of all is biofortification, developed by the International Potato Center and HarvestPlus. What it means is cross-breading locally grown sweet potatoes with deep orange versions of sweet potatoes especially rich in vitamin A. Over time, the new locally grown sweet potato crops are able to provide enough of the necessary vitamin A to eliminate the children’s deficiency. The new sweet potatoes are also bred to be more virus and drought resistant.
Sweet potatoes used to be known as a crop to feed the poor. Now they are known as beautiful deep orange vegetables that save lives. And that allow little ones to see.
“The world cares very little what you or I know, but it does care a great deal about what you or I do.”
Booker T. Washington