South, Central America, Varieties

Venezuelans’ struggle to rescue the ancestral Andean potato

The seventh “EcoFestival of the Native Potato Seed” came to an end in early January this year. This annual event highlights the struggle for the rescue of the ancestral potato and other Andean produce, in favor of food sovereignty in Venezuela. The EcoFestival of the Native Potato Seed is an annual event, held for the last seven years in the Venezuelan Andean community of Gavidia, in Merida State.

This event showcases the many accomplishments made in research, production and organization around native potato seeds and other Andean tubers; demonstrating the great social and productive potential of this products while inciting interest and increased participation despite having to challenge the deeply rooted stigmas designed to facilitate the cultural imposition of foreign seeds.

Economic crisis strains food supply

The economic crisis that has accompanied falling oil prices as well as strangling US and Canadian economic sanctions have severely limited Venezuela’s capacity to import many food items which the country has grown to depend on over the last century since oil has become the number one product for exportation.

The response to this situation, by the majority of Chavismo, has been a push to increase national agricultural production. However, the agricultural industry has also been affected by a lowered capacity for imports, as most production still depends on the importation of foreign commercial seeds and other agricultural inputs.

Often, the small amount of these products that the government does manage to import makes its way into illegal smuggling networks where they are sold at very high prices which most farmers cannot afford to pay for. These practices further limit the national capacity for production as well as driving up the general prices of food.

Challenges ahead to secure the future of native potato varieties

The clear challenge in Venezuela, apart from the struggle against networks of smuggling and price speculation, is to establish a different agricultural model, which does not depend on foreign imports. The Andean community of Gavidia has already taken steps forward with their active organization around the native potato seed.

Research has shown that the conservation and reproduction of the native potato has an important role in soil conservation. These potatoes also possess an extended storage life, as well as exceptionally high nutritional content for human and animal consumption, and offer many possibilities for the production of derivatives of a value-added nature.

There remain tremendous challenges and years of work ahead before these native varieties can eventually substitute imported seeds, but the Andean communities have demonstrated that they have the drive and patience to push forward what could be a fundamental contribution to national food sovereignty.

Source: Tatuy Tv and Venezuelanalysis

Editor & Publisher: Lukie Pieterse

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