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Leveraging the contribution of potato for sustainable nutritious food systems - APA Conference

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Dr Hannah Young, post-doctoral research fellow, went along to the APA Conference last year, check out Hannah's blog below to see what she got up to.

In August 2019, I attended the 11th triennial African Potato Association Conference, held in Kigali, Rwanda. The theme of the conference was “Leveraging the contribution of potato and sweet potato for sustainable nutritious food systems” and brought together delegates from across Africa and beyond. Miriam Talwisa (Climate Action Network- Uganda) and I were there to present our work from the Sweet Potato Catalyst Project, and learn more about sweet potato research across the continent.

The presentations on sweet potato research covered the whole value chain, from breeding new varieties for improved yield and resilience to pests and disease, to processing technologies to reduce post-harvest losses while maintaining nutritional content. There were talks on seed production and farmers’ willingness to pay for seed, and the impacts projects have had in promoting orange-fleshed sweet potato in communities across Africa to help reduce Vitamin A deficiency.

Dr Hannah Young presenting the Sweet Potato Catalyst Project poster at the conference

The poster session gave us the opportunity to present our work which is focussing on climate change impacts on sweet potato in Uganda. The impacts on sweet potato are under-researched compared to other staple crops, so our work will be able to provide important information for those making agricultural decisions on climate change timescales. Sweet potato is generally assumed to be a drought and climate change-resilient crop, however our work will help to quantify the impacts of climate change along with different farming practices, on yields and nutrition.

Fieldtrip to a farming coopertive in Northern Rwanda. Sweet potato vines are grown under nets, and then planted out in the fields.

After three days of talks and poster sessions, the last day was for fieldtrips. The fieldtrip I attended focussed on the sweet potato value chain in northern Rwanda. We first visited a farming cooperative, where farmers work together to grow sweet potato vines ready for planting each season, and test growing new varieties developed at research stations to see how well they do under farm conditions. We then went to a processing factory and saw how sweet potato flour is used to make biscuits, providing another way people can consume Vitamin-A-rich orange-fleshed sweet potatoes.

Biscuits made from sweet potato flour at the processing factory

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