Funder: International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
Countries: Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru
Farmer Madelaine Rodríguez has learned an array of ways to improve the production of her potato farm in Huarochirí, high in the Andes east of Lima, Peru. She knows how to select and store healthy seed potatoes for the coming season and how to bury a plastic barrier around her field to keep weevils from damaging the tubers, among other good practices. This is because Madelaine is one of more than 30 farmers in Huarochirí, and hundreds across the region, who have participated in farmer field schools run by CIP and local partners.
“We’ve learned things we didn’t know before. We used to farm our way, but now we’re farming better,” she said.
Madelaine is one of approximately 1,200 smallholders participating in a two-year project called “Strengthening innovation to improve the incomes, food security and resilience of potato farmers in Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru,” supported by IFAD. According to André Devaux, CIP Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, that initiative is helping farmers adopt technologies and approaches that CIP researchers have developed and validated over the past two decades. The project facilitated the development of collaborative mechanisms to help local governments, national programs such as the Peruvian Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation’s Proyecto Sierra y Selva Alta, and non-governmental organizations such as ADERS Peru to use those innovations in ways that add value to IFAD’s projects in the region.
In addition to providing farmers with tools and knowledge to improve their potato production, CIP has encouraged the cultivation of native potato varieties, while assessing the nutritional and commercial value of local landraces, and using a participatory market approach to help farmers access urban markets for those colorful tubers. CIP helped farmers from Huarochiri attend the annual gastronomic fair Mistura, in Lima, where they sold dried native potatoes – which are combined with pork, chicken and other ingredients to make a tasty Peruvian dish called carapulcra – and made contacts with restaurant representatives.
As one of those farmers, Ceferino Pomalia, explained: “The sale of potatoes helps our community improve our homes and the education of our children.”
The farmers’ association in Huarochirí is one of 15 such groups in Peru and approximately 40 across the participating countries. In Bolivia, where CIP partnered with the government programs ACCESOS and Plan Vida, farmers have learned to produce quality seed potatoes to improve their production of 23 native and commercial potato varieties. CIP is building on previous initiatives to promote the consumption of native potatoes as a way to help farmers conserve potato biodiversity while tapping its potential to improve incomes and nutrition in highland communities.
The initiative has also worked with farmers and partners to evaluate improved varieties with resistance to late blight disease and climate-smart qualities, among them the CIP-bred varieties Kawsay in Peru, Libertad in Ecuador, and four varieties in Bolivia, in collaboration with Fundación PROINPA. Agronomists have also provided training in integrated pest and disease management, such as the use of a CIP-developed decision support tool for controlling late blight that enables farmers to tailor fungicide use to specific varieties and weather conditions, reducing the number of fungicide applications, which results in significant savings and a smaller environmental footprint.
Ecuador project coordinator Claudio Velasco cited the example of the farmers’ association in Tiupitian, in Ecuador’s Bolivar province, whose members improved their yields by using healthier seed potatoes and reduced the amount of fungicides they used to control late blight. This resulted in better harvests and lower production costs, which allowed the association to pay off an outstanding debt.
Claudio explained that CIP collaborates with the Ecuadorean Ministry of Agriculture and Ranching’s Buen Vivir Rural program, as well as municipal and provincial governments and other partners. Both Velasco and Paola Flores, the project coordinator in Bolivia, report that local governments have begun incorporating the technologies and approaches that CIP has introduced into their own farmer extension programs, which will ensure that those innovations continue to be disseminated after the project’s 2018 conclusion.
“I think that we are setting a foundation for local actors to continue the work we’ve started,” Claudio said.
In all three countries, CIP is working with the agriculture and education ministries to get certificates awarded to project participants who have mastered important agronomic skills and could serve as extensionists in their areas. One of those farmers is Gaby Quispe, from the community of Huañajahuira, in Bolivia’s Patacamaya municipality. She hopes to be certified as a rural seed production expert and work with the National Potato Program.
“I’m very happy to have learned these things, and I want to go to other communities and share them with my brother and sister farmers,” she said.