Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

WEB NEWS

Connected toys are a must-have for Christmas

Read more

WEB NEWS

Web users react to Cuba and the US normalizing relations

Read more

REPORTERS

Argentina: The Kirchner era

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Tunisia presidential elections: Final day of campaigning ahead of Sunday's vote

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Holiday season: celebrating a secular Christmas

Read more

#THE 51%

Are toys really us?

Read more

ENCORE!

Child brides, the people of Syria and New York’s homeless

Read more

FOCUS

Video: Pakistan in mourning after school massacre

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Kenya: Security law approved despite disruptions in Parliament

Read more

We travel across the globe and meet the people behind the most fascinating environmental, health and technological innovations in a bid for sustainable solutions to our changing world. Every other Sunday at 8.40 pm.

DOWN TO EARTH

DOWN TO EARTH

Latest update : 2013-05-27

Uganda: Rooting out hidden hunger

In Uganda, sweet potatoes have always been white, not orange, as is common in the west. The crucial difference is that the orange variety is high in vitamin A. If the locals can be convinced to adopt this unusually coloured variety, their children could stave off blindness and in many cases death.

'Not just any sweet potato, but an orange one'

The idea is simple enough: to breed better varieties of the crops Ugandans already eat. It's known as biofortification.

With the help of international research programme HarvestPlus, along with a $10 million boost from USAID, the orange sweet potato crop will be rolled out to 225,000 Ugandan farms over the next five years. Eventually this root, high in vitamin A, could be grown across the whole country, making it easier than ever for the population to access the crucial nutrient directly from their own back yard.

'If it's made as natural as possible... so much the better because Vitamin A can save lives'

t's estimated that one third of the under-five population in Africa is vitamin A deficient. This type of malnutrition is known as hidden hunger because the children may not necessarily be hungry, but rather lack the essential micronutrients to grow into healthy adults.

Uganda is fortunate in that the government administers free vitamin A supplements to the population, but reaching hundreds of millions of people in remote villages is both difficult and expensive.

On the other hand, once a seed is introduced into the agricultural landscape, it can be reproduced indefinitely.

'What if we could go a step further?'

While the orange sweet potato is bred conventionally to be high in vitamin A, another project is looking at how crops can be genetically modified to be more nutritious.

Just outside the capital Kampala, we meet the scientists behind Africa's first transgenic bananas, high in vitamin A.

The Ugandan government is currently debating a pro-GM bill which would allow these bananas to be released from quarantine, but not everyone is in favour of the technology, even in the name of better food.

By Mairead DUNDAS , Emilie COCHAUD , Marina BERTSCH

COMMENT(S)

Archives

2014-11-16 Mexico

Drought emergency

After one of the driest periods in history, 2014 is on track to be the hottest since record began. How do we adapt to these extreme climate conditions which may be here to stay ?

Read more

2014-10-19 carbon emissions

Climate therapy

Greenhouse gas emissions are rising at the fastest rate in three decades. Meteorologists warn the world is running out of time. In this episode, the Down to Earth team explores...

Read more

2014-09-21 environment

Global warming: A drowning planet

Rising sea levels are an inevitable consequence of global warming. Scientific research indicates that sea levels worldwide have been rising at a rate of 0.14 inches (3.5...

Read more

2014-06-22 water

Microplastics: The planet's tiny threat

Tiny plastic particles, barely visible, are infecting the world's sea and oceans, where they're being eaten by fish and other aquatic species before making their way up the food...

Read more

2014-06-09 technology

Biomimicry: Hacking nature

Biomimicry is the science of mimicking life. Have millions of years of evolution churned out all the answers?

Read more