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ABC journalist Joanna McCarthy travelled to the remote island of Makira in the Solomon Islands with researcher Dr Graham Lyons to visit an ACIAR project promoting the growing and eating of Vitamin A-rich crops such as the orange flesh sweet potato, the Pacific’s own ‘superfood’. Her report was aired on ABC Landline on 11 July 2010.

Pacific Islanders’ diets have become overly dependent on heavily processed imported food at the expense of local fruit, vegetables and fish, causing an epidemic of diabetes, chronic disease and malnourishment.

Dr Lyons, of the University of Adelaide, aimed to improve the nutrition and health of people in Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, particularly infants and children, by boosting their vitamin A status, through increasing their consumption of foods high in b-carotene.

Selecting best varieties

The ACIAR research project screened of 77 orange- and yellow-fleshed sweet potato varieties, finding 18 local varieties exceeded 100 mg/kg b-carotene, with 7 of these over 200 mg/kg, an excellent level. According to Dr Lyons it takes is just 100 grams a day of these varieties of sweet potato to get all of your vitamin A needs.

The most suitable Solomon Islands OFSP varieties identified in the survey (with high b-carotene, high yield, pest resistance, acceptable flavour and texture) were propagated and distributed through the Kastom Gaden Association.

Several varieties were imported from the International Potato Center (CIP), Peru, with two varieties, including ‘Beauregard’ showing outstanding yield and size of storage roots, even under wet conditions, as often experienced on the Guadalcanal and Makira weathercoasts. Dr Lyons reports this variety has already appeared at the Honiara market, and demand for cuttings is high.

Other vitamin A rich foods

An awareness program was extended to include other local nutritious foods, such as high-carotenoid bananas, legumes and leafy vegetables, and these were also promoted in a “Go Local” program that received extensive media coverage.

Two local food promotional posters were produced in English and Pidgin, one featuring high-carotenoid bananas from Makira Island, and the other, orange fleshed sweet potato, leafy vegetables and nutrient-rich local foods of the Solomons.

Around 2,100 people attended 28 nutrition workshops and talks on Makira, Ulawa, Malaita, Guadalcanal (Solomon Islands) and around Lae, Morobe (PNG).

More information

To view the Landline story “Import Replacement” visit:…

Read more in University of Adelaide’s Lumen magazine:…

See previous story on Boosting health with coloured fruits and vegetables -

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