Seed Potato for Africa

So3eng

 

View from the field: Challenges in international agriculture

At first glance,  the problem  might be hard to spot. The broad, fertile highlands of East, Central, West, and Southern  Africa are blessed with a temperate  climate and generally dependable rains. These are ideal growing conditions for potato, a well-established,  nutritious  crop with high market  demand.  But look closer  and the challenges appear in sharp relief. Rising populations and growing cities are shrinking landholdings, pressuring small-scale farmers to increase farm incomes in order to offset the loss in acreage. For this region’s six million smallholder potato farmers, potato is one of the few choices for cash crops on farms as small as half a hectare. Troubling is that many farmers are trying to meet the growing demand for potato by expanding the areas under production rather than tackling productivity constraints. This is costly and inefficient. Yields range from 6 to 10 t/ha, far below attainable yields of 25–35 t/ha and the 2010 global average of

17.4 t/ha. Moreover, farmers’ knowledge of good agronomic practices, which could boost potato yields and marketability, is uneven.

The single major bottleneck to increasing productivity is farmers’ limited access to quality seed potato of suitable and more nutrition varieties and biofortified with micronutrients. Farmers in this broad area of Africa tend to grow potatoes in very close rotations or even, in some cases, continual mono-cropping. As a result, diseases accumulate in crops and soils, yields decline, and farmers are left with less to sell. Another problem is that seed sourced from markets or farmer’s own fields is also prone to diseases, which can build up and spread in farmer-saved seed stocks and the seed system in general. Farmers often are unaware of how to select quality seed or use good agricultural practices; many have limited capacity for storing healthy potato. Seed certification standards exist but are difficult to implement in practice. Many national policies do not recognize alternative approaches and more practical quality standards, such as Quality Declared Planting Material, or efforts to maintain quality seed in farmers’ own fields. Access to quality seed is limited further. Policy advocacy at national levels for more practical quality standards is sorely needed.

 

Transforming livelihoods with potato

 

For more than 40 years, breeding for adaptive and disease-resistant traits has been a defining pursuit at CIP, which has an inventory of advanced materials with demanded
traits available. These traits include resistance to diverse diseases such as late blight and various viruses, drought and heat tolerance, and high levels of iron and zinc. However, having good varieties is not enough when the supply  of  planting  material  is  limited, or when conventional multiplication usually takes several generations to produce high-quality seed. Ineffective seed dissemination schemes further delay seed’s timely availability. Farmers’ inability to access quality seed of potato varieties with desired traits undermines all investments and innovations in breeding for new varieties.

Accelerating the multiplication of high-quality seed and increasing its supply to smallholder potato farmers have   been   critical   to   breaking   the seed   bottleneck.   The   centerpiece   of this effort is the three-generation (3G) seed multiplication strategy that can reduce the number of specialized multiplications   from  the  conventional five generations to just three. A three- year pilot project implemented by CIP and   its   national   partners   pioneered the 3G approach and supported the development of rapid multiplication techniques (RMTs) in Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda. More than 15,000 smallholder growers      also      gained      knowledge and skills on potato production technologies   and  best  practices,   and saw average yields increase by 20%. Results from similar projects in other African potato-growing countries reveal that decentralized multiplication, on- farm seed maintenance, and capacity building can improve farmers’ access to quality seed.

 

A new level of partnership

 

An efficient seed system will ease the seed potato bottleneck by accelerating much-needed  access  to  and  adoption of    varieties    with    in-demand    traits. But seed systems, if they are to be sustainable, need further private sector engagement, which includes creating entrepreneurial opportunities for young and female farmers. Part of the success of the 3G approach came from targeted, strategic    private-public    partnerships  all along the seed value chain. This has spurred increased investment by the private sector in seed potato production as   it   responds   to   high   demand   for seed. And although 3G initiatives have since expanded into Angola, Ethiopia, Malawi,  Mozambique,  and  Tanzania with promising results, private sector involvement is still lagging. Africa’s overall improved  investment  climate and e-commerce offer attractive opportunities in a stronger seed potato value chain that continues to mature.

CIP’s  traditional  partners  are essential for adaptive research on and implementation of RMTs for in-vitro, minituber, and field generation seed categories. They play a critical role in building persuasive business models around  socioeconomic  and  cost- benefit analyses and willingness-to-pay studies. To continue to attract critical private sector investment, we need to understand current and shifting user preferences and demands along potato value chains to address changing food habits. We will promote activities to increase   the   use   of   seed   and   ware potato through identifying, adapting, implementing, and documenting effec- tive methodologies  to raise awareness of the value of potato, quality seed, and

improved varieties. Similarly, adaptive research into technologies for on-farm seed quality management, integrated crop management, and postharvest storage for seed and ware potato producers will revolve around national agricultural research systems and advanced research institutions.

 

 

Tapping the potential

 

CIP’s 10-year goals are ambitious but realistic. In close collaboration with a wide  set  of  partners,  CIP  has  pledged to  improve  the  livelihoods  of  at  leastSO3

600,000 smallholder households in potato-growing   regions   of   Africa   by the use of high-quality seed of robust, market-preferred        and       biofortified varieties. We expect farmers to increase potato  yields  to  15  t/ha  and  incomes of at least US $800/ha per season. Multiplier effects will benefit an additional  three  million  households. The initiative  will exploit the crop’s largely untapped potential, creating entrepreneurial opportunities for all levels along the seed value chain, with a special focus on women and youth farmers. The approach includes testing and   implementing   of  methodologies

to generate innovations on large-scale production and use of quality seed, as well as on effective linkages among value chain  actors,  paying  special  attention to private companies. We will identify, document, and promote replicable and scalable methodologies to reach new areas and users with suitable varieties. This   program   will   coordinate   closely with the CGIAR Research Programs (CRP) in which CIP participates, particularly with Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB).

Tab Breaking the Seed Bottleneck

The overall goal of SO 3 is to significantly increase potato productivity and improve the livelihoods of at least 600,000 smallholder farmers in potato-growing regions of Africa by the use of high-quality seed of robust, market-preferred and biofortified varieties. Multiplier effects will benefit an additional three million HH. SO 3 aims to improve quality and access to seed potato tubers, or “seed,” of improved varieties by integrating rapid multiplication technologies (RMTs) with decentralized seed production and on-farm seed maintenance. A key element of this approach is private sector involvement to create entrepreneurial opportunities for young and female farmers. This will eventually boost the supply of quality, affordable seed to smallholder farmers. Chief among the four IDOs that SO 3 will address are  improved productivity in pro-poor RTB food systems, increased and stable access to food commodities by rural and urban poor, and increased and more gender-equitable income for poor participants in RTB value chains.

As a result of SO 3’s interventions, within 10 years at least 600,000 smallholder HHs will increase their potato yields by 50% and incomes by at least US $800/ha per season. Women and men will benefit from SO 3’s focus on multiplication and use of quality seed potato, improved agronomic practices, and facilitation of  innovative business arrangements at key points along the potato value chain that increase access to quality seed. Through multiplier effects, SO 3 expects to impact a further three million HHs. 

The hilly, fertile terrain that ripples across a broad swath of Africa is home to more than six million smallholder potato farmers. High altitudes, a temperate climate, and generally dependable rains make for near ideal growing conditions for potato—one of the few cash crops available to small-scale farmers throughout these mid- to highland regions. Potatoes are nutritious[1] and  enjoy a high market demand. They yield more calories per unit area with a short growing cycle compared to most grain crops. These qualities make potato an important food security and cash crop for smallholder farmers with limited options. Troubling, however, is that farmers are meeting the growing demand for potato by expanding the areas under production, rather than by tackling productivity constraints (yields per hectare).

As farm sizes shrink, there is strong pressure to increase farm incomes as a way to offset the loss in acreage.2,[2],[3] Farmers in this broad area of Africa tend to grow potatoes in very close rotations or even, in some cases, continual mono-cropping. As a result, diseases accumulate and yields decline, reducing their incomes even further.[4],[5] (Yields here range from 6 to 10 MT/ha, far below attainable yields of 25–35 MT/ha and the 2010 global average of 17.4 MT/ha.[6]) Farmers basically have few alternatives to other high-value cash crops, and their knowledge of good agronomic practices, which could boost potato yields and marketability, is uneven. Furthermore, as agriculture continues to encroach onto non-farmland, forested mid- and high-altitude regions are lost, with consequential disruption to the carbon sinks that these forests represent. In many cases, major wildlife habitats and biodiversity are seriously threatened.

The major bottleneck to increasing productivity is limited access to quality seed of suitable varieties, which reduces yields, food availability, and famers’ incomes. The health status of seed defines the potential yield of the potato crop. Typically, farmers often use small-sized and unmarketable ware potato for planting that is generally of low quality and sourced from their own fields or markets. Diseases often accumulate and spread in farmer-saved seed stocks and seed system in general. Farmers’ limited awareness of how to select quality seed is compounded by poor access to varieties with robust traits (such as drought, heat, and disease tolerance and/or biofortified with essential micronutrients, specifically iron and zinc), lack of knowledge of good agricultural practices for potato, and minimal capacity to store tubers. And although seed certification standards exist, many national policies do not recognize more practical quality standards, such as Quality Declared Planting Material (QDPM). This further limits access to quality seed.[7] Policy advocacy at national levels for more practical quality standards is sorely needed.



[1] Lutaladio, N.B., and L. Castaldi. 2009. Potato: The hidden treasure. J. Food Comp. Anal. 22: 491–493.

2 Shepherd, K.D., and M.J. Soule. 1998. Soil fertility management in west Kenya: dynamic simulation of productivity, profitability and sustainability at different resource endowment levels. Agriculture Ecosystems and Environment 71 (1–3): 131–145.

[2] Thornton, P.K., P.M. Kristjanson, and P.J. Thorne. 2003. Measuring the potential impacts of improved food–feed crops: methods for ex ante assessment. Field Crops Research 84 (1–2): 199–212.

[3] Waithaka, M.M., P.K. Thornton, M. Herrero, K.D. Shepherd, J.J. Stoorvogel, B. Salasya, N. Ndiwa, et al. 2005. System Prototyping and Impact Assessment for Sustainable Alternatives in Mixed Farming Systems in High-Potential Areas of Eastern Africa. Final Program Report to the Ecoregional Fund to Support Methodological Initiatives.

[4] Gildemacher, P.R., P. Maina, M. Nyongesa, P. Kinyae, W. Gebremedhin, Y. Lema, B. Damene, et al. 2009. Participatory analysis of the potato knowledge and information system in Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. In: Sanginga, P.C., A. Waters-Bayer, S. Kaaria, J. Njuki, and C. Wettasinha (eds.). Innovation Africa: enriching farmers’ livelihoods. Earthscan, London, pp. 153–167.

[5] Schulte-Geldermann, E., P.R. Gildemacher, and P.C. Struik. 2012: Improving seed health and seed performance by positive selection in three Kenyan potato varieties. Am. J. Pot Res 89: 429–437.

[6] FAOSTAT. 2010.

[7] Fajardo, J., N. Lutaladio, L. Larinde, C. Rosell, I. Barker, W. Roca, and E. Chujoy. 2010. Quality declared planting material—Protocols and standards for vegetatively propagated crops. FAO Plant Production and Protection Paper 195. Rome. 126 p.

Breeding for adaptive and disease-resistant traits is at the core of CIP’s activities, with an inventory of thousands of germplasm accessions that possess demanded traits. Such traits include resistance to diverse diseases such as late blight (LB) and various viruses, drought and heat tolerance, and high levels of iron and zinc. Conventional multiplication to produce and disseminate high-quality seed usually takes several generations, however, and farmers’ inability to access quality seed of potato varieties with desired traits undermines all investments and innovations in breeding for new varieties. CIP has proven experience in integrating RMTs that can reduce the number of specialized multiplications from five to three generations under the “3G” approach pioneered under the three-year USAID-funded 3G project. Through this approach, CIP supported the development of rapid seed multiplication systems in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda, with more recent expansion into Angola, Malawi, and Mozambique. Key to the success of the 3G approach was targeted, strategic public-private partnerships (PPPs) along all stages of the seed value chain, which has spurred increased investment by the private sector in seed potato production due to high demand for seed. But this involvement is still minimal and seed systems, if they are to be sustainable, need further private sector engagement. CIP will exploit this largely untapped potential, creating entrepreneurial opportunities for all levels along the seed value chain, with a special focus on women and youth farmers. Moreover, CIP has shown that decentralized multiplication, on-farm seed maintenance, and capacity building can further improve farmers’ access to quality seed.[1] 



[1] Lutaladio, N.B., and L. Castaldi. ibid.

The core of this SO is client-oriented (i.e., small-scale potato farmers) approaches that enable rapid access to quality seed (Fig. 1). SO 3 will integrate specialized, early-generation seed production with decentralized multiplication and on-farm seed maintenance. Thus an efficient seed system will ease the seed potato bottleneck by accelerating much-needed access to and adoption of varieties with in-demand traits.

Linked products

SO 3 Flagship and Linked Products

  1. Robust, market-demanded candidate varieties. Increase potato-breeding efficiency and delivery, for population improvement and variety development against major biotic and abiotic stresses with user-preferred table, processing, and nutritional qualities. Special needs of vulnerable groups in the potato-growing regions of Africa will be considered. Research themes include producing and disseminating large numbers of advanced clones (e.g., through seed directories), engaging farmers and breeding companies in the selection process, conducting genotype-by-environment evaluations to help identify markers for trait selection, and addressing intellectual property issues.
  2. Seed technologies and business models (3G). We will target specialized and decentralized seed multipliers. The focus here is adaptive research on and implementation of RMTs for in-vitro, minituber, and field generation seed categories, as well as equitable business models to stimulate the seed sector through PPPs, including socioeconomic and cost-benefit analyses and willingness-to-pay studies.
  3. On-farm seed quality and integrated crop management (ICM) technologies. Targets adaptive research on technologies for on-farm seed quality management (positive/negative selection, small seed-plot technique, improved storage, etc.), ICM (control of major pests and diseases, postharvest management, etc.), and postharvest storage for seed and ware potato producers. Improving and maintaining soil fertility will receive special emphasis. Research on modeling seed degeneration, pest and disease epidemiology, and yield gaps carried out in association with RTB will provide scientific basis to improve current ICM technologies.
  4. Locally adapted protocols for seed quality control. Efforts focus on research and evidence-based advocacy actions for adapting and implementing (1) protocols for seed quality control, such as QDPM, to be used at national or regional level to complement regulations of formal seed standards; (2) affordable disease diagnostic techniques; and (3) risk studies for monitoring the introduction of new pests and diseases.
  5. Options for market development for seed and ware potato. Emphasis here is on studies of current and shifting user preferences and demands along potato value chains to address changing food habits. We will promote activities to increase the use of seed and ware potato through identifying, adapting, implementing, and documenting effective methodologies to raise awareness of the value of potato, quality seed, and improved varieties. Participatory organoleptic panels are key to supporting adoption of improved varieties and better target specific markets. These activities will draw upon successful interventions from other RTB or similar crops (e.g., sweetpotato) and regions (e.g., Latin America[1]) and partnerships with food technology experts.
  6. Scaling strategies and evidence base. We will test and implement methodologies to generate innovations on large-scale production and use of quality seed, as well as on effective linkages among value chain actors, paying special attention to private companies. We will identify, document, and promote replicable and scalable methodologies to reach new areas and users with suitable varieties. Close linkages are expected with seven CRPs, particularly RTB and Humidtropics. Close interactions and knowledge exchange are expected with four SOs, especially SO 1 (Combating vitamin A deficiency with resilient, nutritious sweetpotato) and SO 2 (Enhancing food security in Asia through the intensification of local cereal-based systems with the agile potato). Both have strong seed components that can benefit from experiences and methodologies developed within SO 3.


[1]Devaux, A., M. Ordinola, and D. Horton (eds.). 2011. Innovation for Development: The Papa Andina Experience. International Potato Center, Lima, Peru. pp. 431.

SO#3 Impact Pathway

Seed Potato for Africa Last News

Heat-Tolerant Potato Clones under Investigation in Humid Tropics African Countries

February 4, 2014 By CPAD

As a contribution to the CGIAR Humidtropics Research Program, CIP’s Potato Research Team in Sub-Saharan Africa has been leading an Africa-based research project focused on heat-tolerant potato clones. In addition to the farm-based trial on heat-tolerant potato clones, the CIP-Humidtropics research project also works on the training and up-skilling of farmers in Western Kenya, where the trial is taking place.

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