Although it has not featured prominently in the debate on food security, the potato is one of the most important foods in the world! Several million people across East Africa could be growing potatoes. Here's some more information on the humble spud:
A medium-sized potato has 110 calories and provides complex carbohydrates, amino acids and anti-oxidants. A 150 gram potato provides 18% of the recommended daily value (DV) of potassium. Potatoes are also an excellent source of fibre (8% DV) vitamin C (45%), vitamin B6 (10%) and iron (6%).
A Cash Crop
Due to its high bulk and high seeding requirement, potatoes are not easily traded internationally – so they are less vulnerable to price volatility and the vagaries of international markets than cereals. Farmers can keep harvested potato in inexpensive home made stores for most of the year – knowing they can make selling decisions based on their own needs, not market forces.
Adaptable and Efficient
Potatoes are highly nutritious and adaptable to climate change. They use less water per nutritional output than all other major food sources and can be grown across Africa. The potato provides more food per unit area than any other major staple crop – three to five times that of wheat or rice.
Potatoes have potential to double or treble current yields of 8 tonnes/ha using quality approved seed, improved varieties and more effective farm practices. Greater yields = increased household incomes and a surplus for the wider market. Rural women provide most of the labour in both small and large scale potato production – from conservation, seed selection to planting, harvesting, storing and marketing – making potatoes a very ‘gender sensitive’ crop.