Potato – an important source of income for Tanzanian women

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has granted EUR 2.5 million for developing potato cultivation in Tanzania. Leader of the Finnish team within the project is Academy Professor Jari Valkonen from the Department of Agricultural Sciences at the University of Helsinki.

Potato – an important source of income for Tanzanian women

With a total annual amount of 329 million tons, potato is the most common root-crop in the world. The corresponding figures for cassava and sweet potato are 228 million tons and 126 million tons per year. With regard to its nutritional value, potato is a balanced alternative and it is also the only root that can be stored for a longer period of time under the current conditions.

In Africa, it is mostly the women that grow root-crops.

– A potato grower is never poor. You can see that in Uyole, where many of the potato growers have been able to improve their standard of living and can afford to let their children go to school, professor Jari Valkonen points out.

In the project, Valkonen’s team and the International Potato Centre (CIP) will together with employees from the Mikocheni and Uyole research stations prepare a seed potato programme for highlands in southwest Tanzania.

The objective is to develop biotechnology that will help the small-scale farmers in the region to produce sound additional material. A number of companies and organisations are also involved in the research on seed potatoes.

Today, the cultivated land is not used optimally. The yield is only 7.5 tons potato per hectare, compared to more than 30 tons per hectare in Finland. The issue is various viruses that infect the potatoes and are transmitted to new cultivations with the seed potatoes. Sound seed potatoes would triple the yield.

– It is important that we develop the potato cultivation in cooperation with the Tanzanians. They have to start building the competence they need and the solutions that are necessary for solving the problem and securing food production, Valkonen says.

There are some problems, however, with selling the crops and with the delivery chain in Tanzania.

– There are many retailers who buy the entire crops directly from the growers and pay a very poor price for a load of potatoes. The growers ought to organise themselves in groups that can negotiate a better price for the crops, says Valkonen.

The International Women’s Day is celebrated in the Great Hall of University of Helsinki on 8th of March 2011 at 16.00. You can also follow the festivities through live broadcasting on the University¬ís video service.

Plant Virology Laboratory » »

International Potato Center » »

Text: Nadine Aschan
Photo: Jari Valkonen
Translation: AAC Global

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