One of the lesser known issues many Africans face is vitamin A deficiency, a leading cause of blindness. More than a million African children go blind every year as a result, and two-thirds die within months.
A common crop in African villages, the sweet potato could be the answer. Beta carotene is a precursor to vitamin A, and is what gives both sweet potatoes and carrots their orange hue. Researchers have naturally bred a line of potatoes that produces four to six times more beta carotene than control samples.
A study comprising of more than 10,000 Ugandan households found that vitamin A deficiency was reduced by 40% after switching to the experimental potatoes.
Similar efforts are being made in eastern Asia with Golden Rice, a rice line with 30 micrograms of beta carotene added.