African Potato Lab Fights Malnutrition With Biofortification
News Apr 28, 2011
- Matthew Shechmeister, Wired, April 26, 2011
MAPUTO, Mozambique -- When U2's Bono broke into the classic refrain, "Gabba gabba hey!" from the Ramone's "Pinhead" on a Mozambique sweet potato farm last year, the farmers joined in to create perhaps the most unlikely punk rock cover of all time. Bono's riff was inspired by one variety of the vegetable called "Gaba Gaba."
In the last decade, the sweet potato has become an unsung hero in the fight against hunger and malnutrition in Africa. High in vitamin A and suited to a variety of climates, the sweet potato is championed by advocates of biofortification, a movement to improve global health by breeding nutrient-rich crops.
The sweet potato has garnered more than Bono's tuneful endorsement, with the Gates Foundation pledging more than $20 million toward orange-fleshed sweet potato projects in Africa. One biofortified variety of potato is even named "Melinda" after Gates' wife. These high-profile contributions are testament to the movement's growing momentum and the gains already made by scientists and development groups.
Wired.com paid a visit to the laboratory of the International Potato Center in Maputo, Mozambique, where biofortification researchers are saving lives with starch.