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

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee 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.
South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infectionsi
X
November 28, 2014 3:31 PM
South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infections

South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.

All About America

AppleAndroid