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International Potato Center's work on (sweet) potato in Africa (Photo series)

April 26, 2011
The International Potato Center (CIP) may sound like a place where Idaho fifth-graders are dragged on field trips, but in reality it's a sprawling organization promoting rural development around the globe.

Headquartered in Peru, the potato's ancestral home, The Center operates a seed bank that includes over 4,000 varieties of potato, sweet potato and other crops. Through a network of offices in 30 countries, the Center distributes plants to local farmers and adds new breeds to its library.

The Center and its allies have been on a campaign against vitamin A deficiency, a common problem in less-developed regions of the world. The consequences of vitamin A deficiency are devastating, especially for children, leading to blindness and a higher likelihood of death from measles, diarrhea and other illnesses. Consistently distributing tens of millions of multivitamin tablets could solve the problem, but that option can be difficult to achieve because of shaky distribution networks.

Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are naturally high in vitamin A, and grow well in countries across the globe. For subsistence farmers, crop yields are a matter of life and death, so biofortification focuses on plants that are particularly reliable and productive.

Related PotatoPro Newsletter: PotatoEurope's 2010 Keynote Address: Potato and Global Food Security
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The International Potato Center or Centro Internacional de la Papa (also known by its Spanish acronym, CIP) seeks to reduce poverty and achieve food security on a sustained basis in developing countries.