In Mozambique, the majority of the population relies on subsistence agriculture. Thus, the low levels of production and productivity, in conjunction with the relatively high population growth rate, have contributed substantially to a high unemployment rate, extensive poverty, and widespread VAD–especially among children and pregnant and lactating women. In early 2000, Mozambique experienced a severe flood that devastated cultivated land throughout the southern and central provinces of Maputo, Gaza, Inhambane, Manica and Sofala. Soon after the floods subsided, the government launched a program to multiply and distribute OFSVs. The program, which targeted the flood-affected rural people, was aimed at mitigating hunger and food insecurity, and reducing VAD. In addition, SARRNET, in close collaboration with its partners, conducted training activities to teach farmers about improved sweet potato agronomic practices, the crop’s nutritional value and agro-processing techniques for sweet potato; developed teaching materials on nutritional concepts for the primary school curriculum; and sponsored field days/demonstration activities at which food products made out of the roots of OFSVs were displayed. Several studies have highlighted the importance of B-carotene as the predominant source of pro-Vitamin A in preventing VAD in developing countries. However, the bioavailability (conversion of B-carotene into Vitamin A and effective utilization of this Vitamin A by humans) is conditioned by a complex set of factors, including the type and amount of carotenoid in a meal, the matrix in which the carotenoid is incorporated, the presence of absorption and conversion modifiers, the health status of the target population, and the presence of other micronutrients. Studies aimed at assessing the impact of food-based interventions in developing countries revealed different results from country-to-country. Furthermore, the seasonal availability of enriched sources of B-carotene, the low bioavailability and conversion of B-carotene into Vitamin A, and the prevalence of infectious diseases hamper the efficacy of food-based initiatives to mitigate VAD in developing countries.


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