News / Africa

'Rambo' Root Packs New Vitamin A Punch

Vitamin A-enhanced Cassava Fights Malnutritioni
X
September 23, 2013 1:01 PM
Up to 250,000 children around the world die each year from the lack of a simple vitamin, according to the World Health Organization. Vitamin A is essential for the body to fight life-threatening infections. It's also important for vision - and the lack of it leaves more children blind than any other preventable cause. Vitamin A deficiency is especially common among the poor - who cannot afford to eat many fruits, vegetables and other vitamin-rich foods. So, as VOA’s Steve Baragona reports, researchers are working to make the staple foods they can afford more nutritious.
It’s known as the “Rambo root,” surviving through blistering heat and baking drought when maize and rice shrivel to dust.

Cassava is wildly popular across sub-Saharan Africa. Often served at breakfast, lunch and dinner, it provides about one-third of the total calories consumed across the region.

However, when it comes to a key nutrient, this tough root is a weakling.

“The typical cassava that’s white has almost no vitamin A,” said Peter Kulakow, head of cassava research at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).

Missing nutrient

Up to 250,000 children around the world die each year from the lack of vitamin A, an essential nutrient to fight life-threatening infections, according to the World Health Organization. It's also important for vision, and the lack of it leaves more children blind than any other preventable cause.  

Vitamin A deficiency is especially common among the poor, who can’t afford to eat many fruits, vegetables and other vitamin-rich foods.  

In Nigeria, the world’s top cassava producer, one-third of children are vitamin-A deficient.

Those numbers led IITA researchers, and partner HarvestPlus, to give the cassava a makeover. They’re developing new varieties with vitamin A built in.

Yellow flesh

Peel away the cassava’s skin and you can see the difference. The flesh of the new variety is a creamy shade of yellow, which comes from elevated levels of beta carotene, the same vitamin A precursor that makes carrots orange.

A few cassava varieties have some vitamin A in them naturally. Boosting those levels did not require genetic engineering, says Paul Ilona, HarvestPlus country manager for Nigeria.

“The same way you breed cassava to give you high starch content, high sugar level, high yield, it is the same approach that breeders have used to increase the level of vitamin A in cassava to an appreciable level,” Ilona said.
 
At the moment, the yellow root contains about one-third of the vitamin A content researchers are aiming for. It won’t solve the vitamin deficiency problem entirely, but Ilona believes it will help.

Out to the field

Now, the job is to get yellow cassavas out to the farmers.

IITA and its partners have spent the last few years growing enough material to distribute.

“[The year] 2013 is really a landmark year for cassava because it is the first year that farmers are getting the yellow cassava in large quantities in Nigeria,” Kulakow said.

This year, they plan to get the new plants to 100,000 farmers. Then yellow cassava can be turned into the products Nigerians love to eat, from packaged foods to loaves of bread made with 40 percent cassava flour.

The Nigerian government is backing the effort to make yellow cassava yellower and healthier, giving the so-called 'rambo root' more of a nutritious punch.

You May Like

Obama Pledges 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace Christmas precisely because of its non-religious glamor and commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid