Cassava(pictured left)–also known as yuca, mogo, or manioc–is a staple food for many African families. It is their equivalent of rice in Asia or bread in Europe. Cassava originated in South America and was brought over to Africa in the 16th century, where it quickly adapted to the soil climate and was incorporated into diet patterns. More than 200 million people in sub-saharen Africa rely on this carbohydrate for over half of their daily energy intake .
This is terrific crop for the region because it requires very little water, can grown in poor soil, and can be harvested year round. Though maize has often overshadowed cassava, the latter is increasingly making its way into the African diet. Cassava produces the largest amount of food calories per hectare among all food crops, other than sugarcane.
In Nigeria where the average consumption of cassava is 600 grams per capita per day, about 30% of children under five suffer from vitamin A deficiency. In Ghana where cassava represents 30% of daily caloric intake, and cassava and yam combined represent 46% of GNP, about 26% of children under five suffer from vitamin A deficiency. Resultant health implications include low immunity and impaired vision, which often lead to blindness and even death.
The yellow cassava is already being multiplied through stem cuttings. In 2013, when sufficient certified stems will be available, HarvestPlus and its partners will then distribute these to about 25,000 farming households initially. Farmers will be able to grow these new vitamin A varieties and feed them to their families. They can also multiply and share cuttings with others in their community, amplifying the nutritional benefits. After the mid-2014 harvest, more than 150,000 household members are expected to be eating vitamin A-rich cassava.
To read more about this, go to: http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/11166687-nigerian-agric-researchers-develop-vitamina-cassava
HarvestPlus is the global leader in developing biofortified crops and now works with more than 200 agricultural and nutrition scientists around the world. It is co-convened by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). HarvestPlus focuses on three critical micronutrients that are recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as most limiting in diets: iron, zinc, and vitamin A. HarvestPlus envisions that in fifteen years, millions of people suffering from micronutrient malnutrition will be eating new biofortified crop varieties.
To learn more about Harvestplus, go to: http://www.harvestplus.org/