The miraculous orange sweet potato

Sweet potatoes and yams are often over-sweetened side dishes here in the United States, but for farmers like Manuel and his family in Mozambique, this root vegetable is making the difference between hunger and happiness.

By Lucia Rodrigues, World Vision Mozambique. Edited by Rachael Dill Boyer, World Vision U.S.
Published April 10, 2011 at 12:00am PDT

These surprisingly nutritious root vegetables are full of beta-carotene, Vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber, complex carbohydrates, and more.

Perhaps that's why it's so interesting that farmers in Mozambique are feeding and supporting their families by growing drought-resistant varieties of this healthy, versatile potato.

Sweet potato farming = drought insurance

During the dry season in Mozambique, most of the farmers' fields have some burned spots in preparation for the next season of planting when the rains come. Some families have gloomy faces. They are not sure what will happen: Will the rain be enough to grow crops such as maize, rice, and other basics?

However, Manuel Andrade's family is having a different experience. He and his wife Emilia look very happy. They are working in their field, cultivating yams, or orange sweet potatoes.

When asked why his mood was so different than the other farmers in the area, Manuel replied: "I am not worried. Until the rains start and we start having new crops, I and my family are fine. I have a farm with orange sweet potatoes. They are right for this season, as there is nothing in the fields, and it is all dry at this time."

Oddly named, but effective: resisto and gaba-gaba

"From November to March, the food is very scarce," Manuel continues. "Since I started farming orange sweet potato, it was in 2007, helped by World Vision, I am having very stable food supply, and I grow two types of [potato]: resisto and gaba-gaba."

The resisto type of potato grows consistently and flourishes, continuing to be edible long after harvest. Manuel dries the resistos and makes them into flour, so they have food until the other crops come around by mid-March. They also make a juice from the orange sweet potato that the children like because it looks like Fanta.

"Gaga-gaba is less resistant but sweeter," explains Manuel. "Children eat them cooked and roasted; my kids love them."

A trail of accomplishments

Manuel proudly displays a set of the sweet potatoes that have helped bring stability and happiness to his family. Photo: ©2009 Lucia Rodrigues/World VisionLast year, Manuel harvested three tons of orange sweet potatoes. He sold the surplus, earning more than $1,800 — enough money to build his family a new house and a water pump to irrigate his field.

These blessings are the result of a project that World Vision started two years ago to educate people about techniques for farming, harvesting, and utilizing these miraculous varieties of sweet potatoes. Now, people from Manuel's village and the surrounding area come to him to buy potato starts so they can grow their own.

"Because of this," says Manuel, "I am now a contact person for World Vision, and I do help in training other farmers who would like to go into this crop. I do encourage them because I have seen the results and my family is not going hungry."

Since he began growing the yams in 2007, Manuel's children have not been malnourished as they were in the past. "I thank World Vision for introducing this type of sweet potato," he says.

The sweet potato project has come to an end, leaving behind a trail of accomplishments on which the local communities are continuing to build. The miraculous orange sweet potato has impacted thousands of people, including Manuel's family, improving their health, food security, and quality of life.

Now that's something to celebrate!

Three ways you can help

Thank God for the thousands of lives that were impacted by this nutritious, drought-resistant food. Pray that God would open the doors for World Vision to continue helping families grow food in sustainable ways.

Donate now to help provide life-saving food and care to the world's hungry children and families. When combined with government grants, your gift will multiply five times in impact to help provide nutritious food, clean water, agricultural training and assistance, and more.

Sponsor a child in Mozambique. Your love and support for a boy or girl in need will help provide basics like nutritious food, clean water, healthcare, and education, all of which are building blocks for a brighter future.