Biofortification as a Vitamin A Deficiency Intervention in Kenya

AUTHOR

Angela Mwaniki

CITATION

Angela Mwaniki (2007). Case Study #3-7, "Biofortification as a Vitamin A Deficiency Intervention in Kenya". In: Per Pinstrup-Andersen and Fuzhi Cheng (editors), "Food Policy for Developing Countries: Case Studies." 11 pp.
URL: http://cip.cornell.edu/dns.gfs/1200428157

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Vitamin A deficiency is a serious global nutritional problem that particularly affects preschool-age children. Current efforts to combat micronutrient malnutrition in the developing world focus on providing vitamin and mineral supplements for pregnant women and young children and on fortifying foods through postharvest processing. In regions with a high prevalence of poverty, inadequate infrastructure, and poorly developed markets for food processing and delivery, however, these methods have had negligible impact, and biofortification has been proposed as a more effective intervention.

Inadequate dietary intake is the main cause of micronutrient malnutrition in Kenya. It is directly correlated with poverty. Micronutrient malnutrition is directly linked to 23,500 child deaths in Kenya annually. Seventy percent of children under age six have subclinical vitamin A deficiency. The situation is aggravated by a high prevalence of diseases and conditions that directly interact with a patient’s vitamin A status, such as malaria, measles, HIV/AIDS, and deficiencies of other micronutrients such as iron and zinc.

Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes have been scientifically determined to be a feasible tool for alleviating vitamin A deficiency. In Kenya the bulk of sweet potato cultivation is carried out in the western part of the country, and western Kenya also has the highest poverty and vitamin A deficiency prevalence. The region was therefore selected for the first orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) pilot project.

Success will have been achieved when Kenya can offer nationwide use of OFSPs as a vitamin A deficiency intervention. Options for achieving this objective may include: increasing investments in agricultural research and decentralizing the production of new sweet potato varieties; educating farmers on optimal cultivation practices for OFSPs; providing incentives for farmers to adopt OFSPs, including a ready market, and removing limitations that lead to producer nonacceptance; designing a feasible distribution system that ensures that OFSPs are economically and physically accessible to all households; and promoting consumer acceptance by creating awareness of its benefits and developing innovative products.

Your assignment is to recommend a set of policies to the government of Kenya that would facilitate greater production and consumption of biofortified sweet potatoes, taking into account the interests of various stakeholder groups. State the assumptions made in your argument.

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