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2Blades Foundation: The quest to bring a durable, blight-resistant potato to African farmers

The 2Blades Foundation, a non-profit research organization based in the Chicago area, is a principal sponsor of a project that recently developed a durable solution for the late blight potato disease which caused the Irish Potato Famine in the 1840s, leading to the deaths of a million Irish people and at least 100,000 citizens of other nations.

The discovery is of historic importance, and now 2Blades is seeking partners to help bring this disease-resistant potato variety to market and fight hunger in East Africa.

Late blight is affecting more than 7 million acres of cultivated potato and causing an estimated $10 billion in economic losses in developing countries each year. In Kenya and Uganda, where over 1 million smallholder farmers now grow potatoes, late-blight disease can destroy up to 70 percent of their crop. Farmers in wealthier nations spray fungicide to protect potato crops, but these treatments may be unavailable or unaffordable in developing countries.

2Blades partners’ new disease-resistant potato variety can boost African farmers’ production, increase their incomes, and improve their families’ health.

According to 2Blades’ partner in Kenya, Dr. Marc Ghislain of the International Potato Center (CIP), the new disease-resistant potato has been tested in Uganda fields for the past 5 years and “consistently displayed complete resistance, not needing a single drop of chemical fungicide.” Marc worked very closely with Dr. Alex Barekye at Uganda’s National Agriculture Organization, which hosted and ran the trials.

Farmers in Uganda are eager to try the 3R Victoria potato. The funds the 2Blades Foundation are raising would be used to bring this potato variety to market by supporting activities to gather performance and safety data from field trials for regulatory approvals and to promote communications and education about the product.  The goal is to deliver it to national potato programs in East African countries for bulking and distribution by their standard channels.

2Blades Foundation says it is honored to have the support of the son of Robert F. Kennedy, businessman Chris Kennedy, for its African Potato Initiative. He expressed his support in a recent letter that can be read here.

Visit the End The Blight website for further information about the project, and details on how to get involved and donate for the cause.

Source: 2Blades Foundation

Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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