As part of an International Potato Center (CIP) initiative to get more Tajikistanis growing and eating sweetpotato, a team led by Dr. Rusudan Mdivani, CIP regional leader for Central Asia and the Caucasus, and Mukhiddindzhon Nurmatov, project management specialist with the USAID Central Asia Economic Growth office, visited school #11 in Vakhsh, Khatlon district, Tajikistan.
The classroom was packed with children, parents and other community members who were interested in the nutritious crop. The CIP team projected an animated video about orange-fleshed sweetpotato and Dr. Mdivani explained that those orange roots are an excellent source of beta–carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A. She added that it is an especially important food for children because vitamin A deficiency can cause childhood blindness, stunting and other health problems.
Following the presentation, children and parents were invited to try biscuits and other dishes made with orange-fleshed sweetpotato. T-shirts with sweetpotato logos were also given to the pupils, 25 of who were lucky enough to be invited to join a sweetpotato harvest. The project team and school children harvested sweetpotato roots together in a Nutrition Garden in the schoolyard. The project team then invited the pupils to join them next spring to learn how the crop is planted and grows. The children said they can’t wait.