Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Potatoes are nuggets to save Ethiopia as Ireland shares years of expertise

(Sep 17, 2014, (Dublin)--The hills of Chencha in southern Ethiopia, over 2,700m above sea level, are not a place where you might expect the Irish potato to be thriving underground. But in a country where most farmers work on small plots, providing just enough to feed themselves and their family, the humble spud is a popular crop.

Gebremedhin Woldegiorgis, senior potato researcher at the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research, and Denis Griffen, potato breeder at Teagas, inspect potato plants at the Teagasc Research Centre in Oakpark, Carlow. photograph: dylan vaughan
In fact, it is estimated there are one million potato farmers in Ethiopia, planting approximately 160,000 hectares annually. The crop – known as the Irish potato across the region – is grown on mainly small half-hectare plots in the highlands, without fertiliser and mostly by women farmers.

The International Potato Institute, based in Peru, estimates that Ethiopia may have the highest potential for potato production of any country in Africa, with 70 per cent of its 13.5 million hectares of arable land suitable to its cultivation.

“We have a history of potatoes in Ethiopia,” explains Gebremedhin Woldegiorgis, senior potato researcher from the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research. “They were first introduced in 1858 and are an important crop for smallholder farmers who are the majority of farmers in the highlands.” Read more from The Daily Star Lebanon » 

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