05 January 2008

International Year of the Potato

Among many other things, 2008 is the International Year of the Potato (IYP), proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly, recalling resolution 4/2005 of the Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), adopted on 25 November 2005.

According to the IYP official website, "the celebration of the International Year of the Potato will raise awareness of the importance of the potato - and of agriculture in general - in addressing issues of global concern, including hunger, poverty and threats to the environment".

The potato has been consumed in the Andes for about 8 000 years. Being taken to Europe in the 16th century, it quickly spread across the globe. Today, potato is the world's forth most important staple food crop (after rice, wheat and maize).

"The potato should be a major component in strategies aimed at providing nutritious food for the poor and hungry. (...) The potato produces more nutritious food more quickly, on less land, and in harsher climates than any other major crop - up to 85 percent of the plant is edible human food, compared to around 50% in cereals".

Potatoes are rich in carbohydrates (good source of energy), have a high protein content ("with an amino-acid pattern that is well matched to human requirements") and very rich in Vitamin C and potassium.

Still according to FAO, the IYP is an opportunity to make a valid and effective contribution towards meeting some of the UN Millennium Development Goals, namely:
  • Goal 1 - Erradicate extreme poverty and hunger;
  • Goal 2 - Reduce child mortality;
  • Goal 5 - Improve maternal health;
  • Goal 7 - Ensure environmental sustainability;
  • Goal 8 - Develop a global partnership for development.
Particularly, it is aimed at focusing global attention on:
  • the need to reach the vulnerable with solutions that reduce constraints, create opportunities, improve productivity and reduce risks in the farming systems on which they depend;
  • the need to alleviate poverty by increasing incomes and linking farmers to markets;
  • the range of actions needed to protect, conserve and utilize potato diversity;
  • solutions for sustainable intensification of farming systems that will stop or reverse the loss of natural resources.
One of IYP's key partners is the International Potato Centre (CIP), an international research institute dedicated to potatoes, sweetpotatoes and other root and tuber crops, with the aim of reducing poverty and achieving food security, on a sustainable basis, through improved management of natural resources.

The CIP will be organising many activities during the year. Most importantly, it will organise an international forum entitled "Potato Science for the Poor - Challenges for the New Millenium", a working conference to celebrate the IYP, to be held in Cuzco, Peru in 25-28th of March. The conference will explore the role of potato research and the development of potato-based systems in the heterogeneous developing world.

A good example of CIP's activities is its partnership programme "The Papa Andina Initiative", a regional initiative that promotes technological, commercial, and institutional innovation in the potato sector in Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru.

The Papa Andina's strategic partner in Peru is the project INCOPA (Innovation and Competitiveness of Peru's Potato Sector), which aims at identifying and implementing new market opportunities taking advantage of potato biodiversity of Peru, using a Participatory Market Chain Approach.

A Participatory Market Chain Approach is a participatory R&D method that has recently been developed. Involving different actors of market chains, it seeks to generate group innovations based on a well-led and -structured participatory process that gradually stimulates interest, trust and collaboration among members of the market chain.

This way, the project INCOPA has created a marketing concept of linking small-scale farmers from the Andean highlands in Peru to new urban markets, the "T'ika Papa". T’ika Papa promotes biodiversity conservation and environmentally friendly potato production techniques while giving farmers open access to technological assistance and innovation, encouraging local farmer’s associations and propagating the flow of market information.

T'ika Papa has been so successful that it has received several international awards, such as the UN Seed Awards 2007 (Supporting Entrepreneurs in Environment and Development) and the BBC/Newsweek/Shell World Challenge 2007 ("competition aimed at finding individuals or groups from around the world who have shown enterprise and innovation at a grass roots level"). Also, last 16th of October, the World Food Day 2007, FAO has recognised T'ika Papa as a successfull experience in the promotion of the small production of peasant communities.

Welcome to the International Year of the Potato!

International Year of the Potato, FAO
Potato Science for the Poor - Challenges for the New Millenium, CIP
T'ikapapa, INCOPA, CIP
The INCOPA project, CIP

The Papa Andina Initiavive, CIP
CIP - International Potato Centre
FAO - Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, UN


Anonymous said...

It was certainly interesting for me to read that blog. Thank you for it. I like such topics and everything that is connected to them. I definitely want to read more soon.

Anonymous said...

Keep on posting such articles. I like to read stories like that. Just add some pics :)