Contact: Dr. Sunette Laurie, +27 (0)12 808 8000
Many children and adults all over the world suffer from inadequate
intake of vitamins and minerals. Vitamin A is no exception and it is a public
health problem in many developing countries. The consequences of vitamin A
deficiency are higher risks of maternal death, increased risk of death from
measles and diarrhea in children, reduced resistance to infections, delayed
recovery from illness, and eye damage. In South Africa, 49.3% of 1-9 year old
children have vitamin A deficiency (serum retinol <20 µg/dl). This is a
severe prevalence of vitamin A deficiency and can be considered a public health
To address this chronic problem, ARC-Roodeplaat applies
a crop-based approach. This approach is based on the establishment of
food gardens to increase the production, availability, access to, and
consumption of provitamin A rich foods together with education in
This model was developed by the Medical Research Council and ARC-Roodeplaat, and has proved to be successful in decreasing vitamin A deficiency in a pilot project in the Ndunakazi community in Kwazulu-Natal.
The crops with high provitamin A content which are promoted are swiss
chard, orange butternut/pumpkin, and dark orange-fleshed sweet potato.
Orange-fleshed sweet potato is one of the few crops which are both an excellent
source of energy and contains high quantities of provitamin A. Some cultivars
have such high levels of beta-carotene that children only need to consume 100 g
to obtain 100% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA). The ARC-Roodeplaat
sweet potato breeding program focuses on the development of orange-fleshed
cultivars that are better adapted to local conditions than the imported ones.
Dr S. Laurie (Senior Researcher) Project leader
S Tjale (Senior Research Technician)
M. Mtileni (Senior Research Technician)
In collaboration with Dr Mieke Faber, Medical Research Council
Crop-based model -
meeting to form a partnership between the project team and the community
the situation in the community, i.e. existing dietary practices and garden
activities, infrastructure and resources and stakeholders
project-planning meeting to discuss the proposed gardening project,
formulate objectives and set goals. This is done in a participatory
and training of fieldworkers establishing home/community gardens with
provitamin A rich crops and nutrition education aspects
demonstration gardens with provitamin A rich vegetables to serve as
community training centres
a community-based nursery for supply of cuttings of orange-fleshed sweet potato
community with the necessary knowledge through nutrition education and
promotion to enable behavior change:
provitamin A-rich vegetables and introduce these to small children
Teaching caregivers how to
prepare vitamin A-rich vegetables
Nutrition education focusing on vitamin A
Monitor growth of pre-school children (optional)
Providing training in planting of vitamin A-rich vegetables
and evaluation: i) monitoring of project execution;
and ii) project progress.
Implementation of crop-based projects: The project team provides training in production of crops with high provitamin A content such as dark orange-fleshed sweet potato, swiss chard, carrot and orange butternut/pumpkin, in addition to training in the nutritional value of the crops, the importance of vitamin A and provides cuttings of orange-fleshed sweet potato to start production. Broadly ARC-VOP can assist organizations in implementing the crop-based projects through training and demonstration.
Previous projects were implemented with Department of Basic Education implementing growing of orange-fleshed sweet potato in school gardens in various provinces.
Schools in Western Cape growing and serving orange-fleshed sweet potato.
A larger scale project was implemented in collaboration with Department of Social Development in Eastern Cape where half hectare plots of orange-fleshed sweet potato was established and the project members was trained in preparation of processed products from orange-fleshed sweet potato e.g. doughnuts, chips, and chutney.
Orange-fleshed sweet potato
field of Ilitha Project near King Williamstown
ARC exibition of orange-fleshed at a sweet
potato promotion event
In a recent project, the ARC-VOP joined efforts of the University of Pretoria, Faculty of Family Medicine in the Zama Zama informal settlement near Daspoort, training some community members in growing orange-fleshed sweet potato and other vegetables. The principles of the crop-based approach to address vitamin A deficiency is included in modules of the ARC-VOP vegetable training course.
The ARC and MRC published a manual titled: "A crop-based approach to address vitamin A deficiency in South Africa" to assist organizations in the implementation of this approach. The manual is available from ARC-Roodeplaat.
Department of Basic Education, 2011. Horticulture Manual for Schools: A guide to establish and sustain food gardens. National School Nutrition Programme, Department of Basic Education, Pretoria. South Africa. (Authors: LAURIE, S., van den Heever, E., du Plooy, I. & Mkula, L., Agricultural Research Council – Roodeplaat Vegetable and Ornamental Plant Institute)
FABER M, LAUBSCHER R & LAURIE S, 2011. Availability
of, access to, and consumption of fruits and vegetables and it's
relation to LSM in a peri-urban area in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Maternal and Child Nutrition doi: 10.1111/j.1740-8709.2011.00372.x.
FABER M & LAURIE SM, 2010. A home-gardening approach developed in South Africa to address vitamin A deficiency. In: Thompson B, Amoroso L (eds). Food Based Approaches (FBAs) for Combating Micronutrient Deficiencies. Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and CABI bookshop. Pg. 163-182. ISBN-13: 978 92 5 106546 4. www.fao.org/docrep/013/am027e/am027e00.pdf
Faber M, Laurie S, Ball A & Andrade M, 2013. A crop-based approach to address vitamin A deficiency in South Africa. Medical Research Council, Cape Town / ARC-Roodeplaat, Pretoria, South Africa
Faber M, Laurie S, Maduna M, Magudulela T & Muehlhoff E, 2013. Is the school food environment conducive to healthy eating in poorly resourced South African schools? Public Health Nutrition doi:10.1017/S1368980013002279 (ISI 2.25)
Faber M, LauriE SM, van Jaarsveld PJ, 2013. Total β-carotene content of orange sweetpotato cultivated under optimal conditions and at a rural village. African Journal of Biotechnology Vol. 12(25): 3947-3951 DOI: 10.5897/AJB2013.12380
Faber M, Laurie SM, Van Jaarsveld PJ, 2014. Critical issues to consider in the selection of crops in a food-based approach to improve vitamin A status – based on a South African experience. In: Thompson B, Amoroso L (eds). Improving diets and nutrition. Food-based approaches. CABI and FAO, pp 45 – 57, 2014.
Faber M, Wenhold FAM, Laurie SM. 2017. Dietary diversity and vegetable and fruit consumption of
households in a resource-poor peri-urban South African community differ by food
security status. Ecology of Food and Nutrition. Ecology of Food and Nutrition
Laurie SM, Faber M, Maduna M. 2017. The potential, gaps and constraints of
school food gardens in a nutrition-sensitive time: the case of primary schools
in South Africa. South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Accepted in
December 2017 SAJCN issue http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/16070658.2017.1271609
Laurie SM, Faber M, Malebana ME & van den Heever E,
2013. Results from a survey on school food gardens in South Africa:
Perceptions of teachers, learners and parents. Acta Hort. (ISHS)
RAUTENBACH F, FABER M, LAURIE S & LAURIE R, 2010. Antioxidant capacity and antioxidant content in roots of 4 sweetpotato varieties. Journal of Food Science 75(5): 400-405.
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