What we do

 

Irish Potato Coalition

Vita recognises a new approach is required that enables development partners to create equitable and sustainable potato value chains if the potential of potatoes as a food crop in Africa is to be realised.

The Coalition is a means of developing, sharing and scaling best practices and models to maximise the potential benefit that potatoes provide to rural communities.

It is a means of developing, sharing and scaling best practices and models to maximise the potential benefit that potatoes provide to rural communities.

The founding partners of the Potato Centre of Excellence are Vita, Gama Gofa Zonal Administration, the International Potato Centre, Arba Minch University, Teagasc, Wageningen and the Irish Potato Federation.

Based on its work on potatoes with CIP and local partners, Vita recognised the potential that potatoes can provide as a staple food. We also recognised that there are many barriers to realising this potential and that a new approach was required to overcome these to create and sustainable and well-functioning potato value chains.

The Coalition provides an innovative vehicle to achieve this by enabling a team of people to promote collaboration and best practices around a specific focus area to drive results.

The Coalition has the following unique features that differentiate it from traditional development models:

  • It works to improve the entire value chain – typically projects focus on one aspect or limited aspects of the value chain.
  • It creates a partnership between research, business and development stakeholders –  research has rarely been incorporated into mainstream development under other models.
  • It places community empowerment and ownership as the starting point to successful transfer of technologies, along with enhanced collaboration of local government with external development partners.
  • It actively works and engages with the private sector - typically the business aspects and private sector focus is not engaged in development projects.
  • It has a 5-10 year time horizon – typically aid projects last 1-4 years which can be constraining in creating impact and scalability.
  • It has a strong focus on delivery of results and on the measurement of results.

 

The pilot programme is based in Gama Gofa in the Southern Region of Ethiopia with the immediate objective of improving livelihoods of 100,000 farmers through effective use of potatoes ( new seed, better planting techniques, better use of fertiliser and management of pest and disease ). 

Vita acts as the driver to coordinate a seven country Potato Coalition covering Ethiopia, Malawi, Eritrea, Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique and Kenya. The Coalition involves Irish and international NGOs together with CIP and various science and business partners. This is a very ambitious venture that will enable rapid knowledge sharing and lessons learned and will develop a common framework for all partners. A document describing the aims of the Coalition can be downloaded below. 

Value of potatoes: The potato has important potential as a staple crop in that it provides high nutrition and is an adaptive species for climate change. They use less water per nutritional output than all other major food sources and can be grown across Africa. Potatoes have potential to double or treble current food yields using improved varieties and farm practices and the potential to have a significant impact on providing nutrition to families and increased farm income. Over one million highland farmers are or can grow potatoes in Ethiopia, and this extends to several million across East Africa.