Vita Launches Potato Centre of Excellence in Africa

Vita Launches Potato Centre of Excellence in Africa
Vita Launches Potato Centre of Excellence in Africa



“The Vita Potato Centre of Excellence is a key solution to the African food challenge.”

A major €5m Vita Potato Centre of Excellence that will increase the supply of food in African countries is being launched on June 13th 2012 by Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, TD. The Potato Centre of Excellence is a programme for growing Irish potatoes in Gamo Gofa in Southern Ethiopia to enable the two million population to feed themselves in the long term.

Local farmers take out a ‘loan’ of a bag of seed potatoes, which can be returned the next year alongside a donation of another bag, providing yet more farmers with seed for years to come. This process can enable millions to feed their families.

Launching the Vita Potato Centre of Excellence, Minister Coveney commented: “I’m delighted to be launching this very innovative project today. It represents a wonderful collaboration between Irish agri-food expertise through Teagasc and the Irish Potato Federation allied to the development knowledge of Vita along with their international partners in this proposed Potato Centre of Excellence. The generous support of the Irish Potato Federation in supporting model farms and developing local industry as well as Teagasc in developing local research-advisory service linkage shows that the Irish agri-food sector has much to offer other countries seeking to learn from our experiences. I wish the project every success”.

Teagasc Director Prof. Gerry Boyle said: “Food security and climate change are global issues that cannot be solved by any individual country alone. I am delighted to announce today that Teagasc is expanding on our current leadership role in international research consortia, and commencing a new initiative on food security, which will be headed up by Dr Rogier Schulte. Today’s launch of the Vita Potato Centre of Excellence in Africa is the first step and an excellent example of international collaborative research and development on sustainable food security.”

Vita is an Irish international development agency with programmes in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Kenya whose vision is to forge long-term international partnerships which empower rural communities to sustain their livelihoods. John Weakliam, Vita CEO, said: “This project is about technology transfer and business partnership and not about aid, to allow farmers to own their own destiny. The Potato Centre of Excellence can bring about a key solution to the African food challenge.”

“This links with Ethiopia’s aim of self-sufficiency and business partnership with Ireland,” Her Excellency Lela-Alem Gebreyohannes, Ethiopia’s ambassador to Ireland said: “We are keen to develop through strategic, long term partnerships that benefit all stakeholders. The Vita Potato Centre of Excellence is an exciting step for the people of Ethiopia, and should serve as a template for replication across Africa.”

Vita is delighted to acknowledge the vital contribution of the Department of Foreign Affairs, through Irish Aid, as well as the European Union, to Vita’s Sustainable Livelihoods Programme in the Horn of Africa.

For further information, please contact Ciara Feehely, 087 6177433

Editorial Notes

More about this programme

· The Irish Potato Federation (IPF) have conducted two sites visits to the potato development site in Gamo Gofa in Southern Ethiopia and are providing funding support and agronomic and business support.

· Partners in the research component of the project include Teagasc, Europe’s leading agriculture researchers in Wageningen University in The Netherlands, the International Potato Centre (CIP) and the Ethiopian National Agriculture Research Agency (EIAR). Teagasc’s potato breeding programme is supported by a world-renowned potato research facility in Oak Park in Carlow while Wageningen University is the world’s leading researcher of the potato and has carried out extensive research of potato projects in Ethiopia.

· The Potato Centre of Excellence is implementing a four-year research partnership under the supervision of Wageningen University which will examine seed quality, farm systems and project delivery and impact in the potato programme in Chencha. The research will measure outcomes of the Seed and Ware potato development in improving farm systems, nutrition status and livelihoods of Ethiopian farmers.

· Ten Ethiopian, Irish and international organisations are supporting the potato initiative with secured initial funding close to €1 million.

More about Vita

Vita is an Irish development agency whose mission is to tackle household food insecurity through community led sustainable agriculture project which are scalable and replicable, with a special focus on women as the key enablers of sustainable development. The 2012-15 programme goal is to create a material improvement in nutrition for 250,000 households, and leverage such impact through partnerships and scaling up.

The European Union has validated Vita’s work with potato farmers with an award of first prize amongst Ethiopian partners in September 2011.

In the past three years, with support from the Irish Government and in partnership with the Sisters of Mercy Western Province in Galway, Vita and government partners have championed a community led approach to development in Chencha based on empowerment and sustainability. This includes programmes that enable households to build stoves and latrines, with immediate positive and direct impacts on the long term health of families. Other programmes include tree–planting schemes for subsistence farmers as well as provision of solar lighting to create sustainable communities living in “Green Zones”.

In Ireland, local communities are also getting involved – they are being led by residents from Kill village, County Kildare who have raised significant funding to support the development of the Vita Potato Centre of Excellence. Employees from Bank of Ireland, Electric Ireland, Dublin City Council and other organisations also support Vita’s work in Ethiopia.

Source: HortiTrends News Room