British Journal of Nutrition

Dietary Surveys and Nutritional Epidemiology

A large-scale intervention to introduce orange sweet potato in rural Mozambique increases vitamin A intakes among children and women

Christine Hotza1a2 c1, Cornelia Loechla3, Alan de Brauwa4, Patrick Eozenoua1, Daniel Gilligana4, Mourad Moursia1, Bernardino Munhauaa3, Paul van Jaarsvelda5, Alicia Carriquirya6 and J. V. Meenakshia1

a1 HarvestPlus, International Food Policy Research Institute, 2033 K Street NW, Washington DC 20006, USA

a2 Nutridemics, 231 Fort York Boulevard, Unit #1711, Toronto, ON, Canada M5V 1B2

a3 International Potato Center (CIP), Avenida La Molina 1895, La Molina, Apartado Postal 1558, Lima, Peru

a4 Poverty, Health and Nutrition Division, International Food Policy Research Institute, 2033 K Street NW, WashingtonDC 20006, USA

a5 Nutritional Intervention Research Unit, Medical Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa

a6 Department of Statistics, Iowa State University, Ames, IA, USA


β-Carotene-rich orange sweet potato (OSP) has been shown to improve vitamin A status of infants and young children in controlled efficacy trials and in a small-scale effectiveness study with intensive exposure to project inputs. However, the potential of this important food crop to reduce the risk of vitamin A deficiency in deficient populations will depend on the ability to distribute OSP vines and promote its household production and consumption on a large scale. In rural Mozambique, we conducted a randomised, controlled effectiveness study of a large-scale intervention to promote household-level OSP production and consumption using integrated agricultural, demand creation/behaviour change and marketing components. The following two intervention models were compared: a low-intensity (1 year) and a high-intensity (nearly 3 years) training model. The primary nutrition outcomes were OSP and vitamin A intakes by children 6–35 months and 3–5·5 years of age, and women. The intervention resulted in significant net increases in OSP intakes (model 1: 46, 48 and 97 g/d) and vitamin A intakes (model 1: 263, 254 and 492 μg retinol activity equivalents/d) among the younger children, older children and women, respectively. OSP accounted for 47–60 % of all sweet potato consumed and, among reference children, provided 80 % of total vitamin A intakes. A similar magnitude of impact was observed for both models, suggesting that group-level trainings in nutrition and agriculture could be limited to the first project year without compromising impact. Introduction of OSP to rural, sweet potato-producing communities in Mozambique is an effective way to improve vitamin A intakes.

(Received February 08 2011)

(Revised August 22 2011)

(Accepted August 22 2011)

(Online publication October 10 2011)


c1 Corresponding author: C. Hotz, email


Abbreviations: EAR, estimated average requirement; HAZ, Z-scores for height-for-age; LAZ, Z-scores for length-for-age; OSP, orange sweet potato; RAE, retinol activity equivalents; USDA, United States Department of Agriculture; WAZ, Z-scores for weight-for-age