Potato is an important food and nutritional security crop in sub-Saharan Africa. However, a quick look reveals a glaring challenge faced by farmers across the continent: limited access to quality seed potato. The situation is no different in Cameroon. But recent success in Kenya – supported by the International Potato Center (CIP) – holds great promise for Cameroon and other SSA countries.
Potato production in East Africa is under increasing threat from the invasive and highly destructive potato cyst nematode (PCN) Globodera rostochiensis. Researchers have now developed an organic technology from banana plant waste material which might well being a practical solution for potato farmers. Dubbed ‘wrap-and-plant,’ the solution involves enclosing potato seed before planting in a thick absorbent paper made from the fibers of banana plants.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Feed the Future Initiative has awarded a five-year, $13 million award for a collaborative partnership led by Michigan State University (MSU). The Feed the Future Global Biotech Potato Partnership will bring late blight disease resistant (LBR) potatoes in farmer-preferred varieties to the Asian countries of Bangladesh and Indonesia, and the African countries of Kenya and Nigeria.
According to a survey of potato experts in 10 sub-Saharan African countries in 2018, the most serious threat to the region’s potato crop is bacterial wilt disease. Caused by the soil- and seed-borne bacteria Ralstonia solanacearum – a high-risk, quarantine pathogen in Europe and the Mediterranean – bacterial wilt is responsible for an estimated USD 1 billion of economic loss globally each year.
A valuable cargo of premium Scottish seed potatoes has reportedly been turned back from Egypt, at a cost traders estimate to be in the region of £1.5 million. It is understood 1,500 tonnes of Hermes seed potatoes from five or six suppliers is currently in limbo in Alexandria, after the load was rejected by Egyptian authorities because it failed to meet a December export deadline by one day.
The NThe National Potato Council and KFC in Kenya have identified the Markies potato variety that farmers in that country can now grow to supply the US-based fast-food chain with locally sourced French fries. The National Potato Council said KFC agreed in a meeting last week to have local farmers plant the Markies variety to cut overreliance on imports.
Increasingly, the economic hardship in Algeria is being measured by the shortage of a staple product that is a key ingredient in such national dishes as tagine or chtitha batata: the potato. Indeed, the price of potatoes has almost tripled on the Algerian market in just a few months, becoming a symbol of the nation’s deteriorating economic situation, stirring up anger within modest households and igniting the risk of street protests.
As Miriam Berger reports in an article for The Washington Post, a number of popular items, including marmite and cream cheese, have faced scarcities amid supply chain disruptions wrought by the coronavirus pandemic and extreme weather. Potatoes are the latest to join the list, becoming unevenly available in some countries and fast-food chains because of a confluence of factors.
Fast food chain KFC has suffered a shortage of French fries at its outlets in Kenya following delays in delivery from its overseas suppliers, forcing it to offer customers alternative food items in place of French fries. The company at first said it does not source potatoes for fries from local suppliers due to ‘global quality standards’, but then said on Tuesday this might happen ‘in the near future’.
The potato industry in South Africa is investing in various technologies to improve its sustainability, and is currently in the process of developing a mobile app to improve communication with members. Willie Jacobs, CEO of Potatoes SA the app will allow farmers to identify problem spots and compare production from different areas on their farms, and over time, [and] also [to] compare production with what has been achieved in previous seasons.
The International Potato Center (CIP) is conserving the future of potato genetic diversity in the world’s largest potato cryobank and setting new standards to transform the way that other priority clonal crops like sweetpotato and yams are held in safe storage. These innovations ensure we have an essential backup collection of the clonal crops that 300 million smallholders in developing countries depend on.
Prices for potatoes in South Africa have seen a massive spike over the past year, setting a new record high. Last week, a bag of 10kg potatoes surged 13% and reached a staggering R97.09 ( about US$6,50) due to low supply from farmers. Market analyst Johnny van der Merwe said the cost of potatoes is now as much as 102% higher than this time last year.
Potato tuber moth can be a potato producer’s nightmare. InteliGro in South Africa devised an effective monitoring system not only help to control this pest successfully, but allows producers to manage risks and reduce input costs over time. The project has since gained tremendous momentum and is currently an integral part of the service and decision-making support InteliGro offers in South Africa’s Sandveld potato-production region.
Because potato growers need to identify and manage diseases in their fields, the AI-powered mobile app PlantVillage Nuru has been expanded to include them also. More than two million farmers in East Africa who depend on potatoes will be able to point their smartphones at a plant and receive an instant disease diagnosis through the app. It has been expanded to include potato late blight (Phytophthora infestans) and early blight (Alternaria solani).
The Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) is banking on a high quality potato seed production and distribution deal with Syngenta Foundation to increase production five times to 10 million tons annually. The deal involves increasing high quality certified potato seed availability to farmers by 25 percent through rapid multiplication, increased field seed bulking, and capacity building of commercial seed growers in the country.
The Africa Potato Association (APA) has announced that its 12th triennial conference will take place from June 27 to July 1, 2022 in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe. The conference theme will be ‘Harnessing potato and sweet potato innovations for resilient and healthier agri-food systems’. Conference subthemes include breeding and genetic innovations for increased resilience, production and nutrition, innovative approaches for building sustainable seed systems and more.
In response to the challenges of climate change, growing demands for food, and persistent malnutrition, crop breeders across the Global South are developing more resilient, productive and nutritious potato varieties. The G+ Tools – a new gender-responsive toolkit for breeding developed by the International Potato Center and the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas – promises to address this barrier by advancing a holistic framework to evaluate what traits men and women, farmers and consumers want in their potato, sweetpotato, cassava, and other crop varieties.
A blight-resistant gmo potato variety help farmers in Uganda to defeat late blight and change their fortunes
Successful innovation for agriculture will depend on thorough and careful understanding of the aspirations of beneficiaries and the challenges farmers face. It entails putting them at the center of these innovations, according to this blog post by the International Potato Center (CIP). As part of its work to research solutions addressing hunger and poverty, CIP and partners worked in Uganda to develop and test a new type of blight-resistant potato, which may not need any fungicides.
The ‘tricot’ approach: How African farmers participate in potato variety selection and dissemination
The “triadic comparisons of technologies” – or tricot – approach is being used in a citizen-science project funded by the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) to identify and scale up best potato and cassava varieties in Rwanda. Farmers are trained to conduct a trial with potato seed and then, at the end of the season, they are asked which variety they consider ‘best’ or ‘worst’ on several characteristics including yield, marketability, plant vigor and more.
Anti-dumping tariffs on frozen French fries imported from the Netherlands and Germany have expired, leaving the South African potato industry vulnerable to ‘dumping’. Willie Jacobs, CEO of Potatoes South Africa (Potatoes SA), said “The previous protection mechanism [proved] to be effective in ensuring the sustainability [of the local industry], and there is more than significant case law to suggest it to be necessary.”
Potato yields are highly-dependent on fertilizer use, but pinpointing the amount of fertilizer to be used can be a challenge, especially for smallholder farmers in Africa. This challenge is important in Rwanda where average potato yields are currently 8-10 tonnes per hectare (t/ha), compared to the 25-35 t/ha they might expect with improved potato varieties, better pest and disease management, and enhanced extension services and fertilizer use.
The World Potato Congress Inc.’s (WPC) Board of Directors announced this week the appointment of Willie Jacobs as its newest International Advisor from South Africa. Mr Jacobs is serving as CEO of Potatoes South Africa. Romain Cools, President & CEO of World Potato Congress Inc.: “We are very pleased to welcome Willie Jacobs to the World Potato Congress Inc.’s International Advisor group. Mr. Jacobs will be a great asset to WPC.”
As the next generation of young soccer whizzes in South Africa breathlessly out-dribble opponents and score mesmerizing free kicks, many of those future Cristiano Ronaldos might already be showcasing those tricks on a pitch made of potato chip bags. Chips processor Lay’s is partnering with its longtime Champions League partner, UEFA, and grassroots soccer organization Streetfootballworld to provide the world’s first five soccer fields made out of potato chip bags.
In a blog post on Global Food for Thought, guest authors Chris Kennedy and Bob Easter examine how a collaborative effort to bring a disease-resistant potato variety to market in Africa can promote global food security. It has to start with good seed, they write. Their seed has to have the genetic traits to not only produce more grain or fruit or tubers, but it also has to have the traits that make the plant resistant to the crops’ natural enemies and climate threats.
A recently published article by academic experts Marc Ghislain, Rick Goodman and Alex Barekye describes the development of an African potato variety – transformed with three resistance genes from wild potato relatives – that provides resistance to late blight disease. The article was published by OpenAccessGovernment.
2Blades Foundation: Collaborative effort to bring a disease-resistant potato variety to market in Africa
Evanston, Illinois based 2Blades Foundation reports in its latest e-mail newsletter on the Foundation’s support for the International Potato Center’s African potato initiative. The Foundation make note in the newsletter that Chris Kennedy, Chairman of Joseph P. Kennedy Enterprises, Inc. and Bob Easter, President Emeritus of the University of Illinois, co-wrote a blog on how a collaborative effort to bring a disease-resistant potato variety to market in Africa is helping to build global food security.
New Potatoes South Africa awareness campaign highlights resilience, optimism of unsung industry heroes
Potatoes South Africa (PSA) has launched a bold new awareness campaign in a bid to create perspective about the resilience and performance of the potato industry’s stakeholders in the country, especially in the context of South Africa recently marking the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 disruption. Called #WhenHopeWhispers, the campaign aims to highlight the resilient spirit and contributions of various stakeholders from the potato industry.