Vitamin A cassava is variety modified to contain pro vitamin A or beta-carotene, yellowish in colour and it breaks down in the body to release vitamin A.
It is part of nutrient-rich crops developed by International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to enhance nutrient requirements, increase productivity and reduce hunger in Africa.
The varieties were developed to combat Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD) which is a serious health problem. VAD can lower immunity, impair vision, lead to blindness and cause death in children. Though vitamin A can be obtained from green leafy vegetables, yellow fruits, carrot, mango, palm oil, pawpaw and eggs, people don’t get the required amount because they don’t consume adequate quantities of the items. Vitamin A cassava varieties are bred to provide at least 50% of the daily need of Vitamin A.
Three yellow root cassava varieties, UMUCASS 36, UMUCASS 37, and UMUCASS 38, are being grown (under the Harvest Plus Project) in Nigeria for their high concentrations of β-carotene.
The new yellow varieties have high yields and are resistant to many pests and diseases. Like ordinary cassava, they do not need nutrient rich soils or extensive land preparation and do not suffer significantly as many other crops during droughts.
Vitamin A deficiency is common in sub-Saharan Africa. In Nigeria, it affects about 20% of pregnant women and 30% of children under five. It can impair immune systems and vision which could cause blindness and, in some cases, death.
Since cassava is a major food staple, yellow cassava shows great potential to alleviate Vitamin A deficiency in Africa. Introducing cassava bio-fortified with Vitamin A is an excellent innovation to improve health on a large scale.
Health Benefits of Vitamin A Cassava
- Vitamin A is essential for clear vision especially old people
- It enhances brain development in children
- It is essential for maintenance of pregnancy
- It is essential for immune function
- Vitamin A cassava products are recommended for diabetic persons because they are low in starch and release nutrient into the body
- The leaf of Vitamin A cassava is rich in protein, vitamin and mineral and can be cooked with egusi and served as delicacy