AFRICAN POTATO ASSOCIATION – GROWING WEALTH AND HEALTH FOR A DIVERSE CONTINENT

The APA’s core objective is to promote production and utilization of potato and sweetpotato for food and nutrition security in Africa. Additionally, the APA facilitates knowledge sharing by bringing together diverse stakeholders in the potato sector across Africa. Drawing scientists, practitioners and entrepreneurs from over 20 African countries and abroad, the APA members cover an extensive range of research and development of the promising crops.

POTATO & SWEETPOTATO – SURPRISINGLY UNIQUE

The significant roles of potato (solanum tuberosum) and sweetpotato (Ipomea batatas) are rapidly evolving and changing in Africa. Both crops are valued for their contribution towards food security, health and their potential as drivers for rural economic growth is increasingly being recognized. The production of potato in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has more than doubled over the past 20 years. The crop provides almost twice as much energy as wheat and rice – this makes it very attractive to African farmers who increasingly acknowledge its comparative advantage over other crops. Potato has become a popular food in urban areas, which means the crop has a high market potential. Sweetpotato is equally important due to its high nutrient content and its ability to grow well under low input conditions within a broad range of agro-ecologies. This crop is one of the major food security crops in Africa — the crop that has the potential to fill in the gap when maize harvesting fails.

HISTORY AND ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE AFRICAN POTATO ASSOCIATION

The African Potato Association (APA) was founded on September 16, 1983 in Lusaka, Zambia by Rabson Chileshe, Zambia, John Njoroge, Kenya and Rakotondramanana, Madagascar. The establishment of the association came out of the realization of lack of platforms amongst potato national research programs across Africa for sharing experiences and learning. APA was then founded to address this gap. A triennial meeting was established to provide a forum for exchanging ideas and learning from each other. For the last thirty years, the APA built a network amongst research centers in Africa and attracted Agricultural Research Centers outside Africa. From its inception, the APA focused on research for small holder farmer development and agricultural economic growth, with as clear vision that this will bring wealth and health to the African countries. They did not follow the international paradigm of the 1980s that was centered on industrial-led growth. It was only in the beginning of the new millennium that the international community once more acknowledged the role of the small holder-led agricultural development as an engine for economic growth in Africa.