October 11, 2016

Rwanda is announced as the next Triennial African Potato Association Conference host

By Christine Bukania

On 11 October 2016, the African Potato Association (APA) council announced that Rwanda would host the next APA triennial conference. The announcement was made during the APA meeting that took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where the APA members, voted in the new council members: Dr. Francis Amagloh for West Africa, Dr. Felistus Chipungu for Southern Africa, Dr. Julius Okello for East and Central Africa. The regional council member will be announced following confirmation of nomination. As the next host of the APA conference, Rwanda now assumes the presidency of the council.

Breeding, seed systems, and agronomic practices and market opportunities dominate discussions at the APA conference

Dr. Jean Ndirigwe (Rwanda Agriculture Board) makes a speech after the announcement of the next APA host (A. Ndayisenga)

Dr. Jean Ndirigwe (Rwanda Agriculture Board) makes a speech after the announcement of the next APA host (A. Ndayisenga)

This marked the end of the second day of the 10th edition of the conference – a day that was packed with deliberations on how challenges to sweetpotato and potato production could be addressed to increase the crops’ contribution to wealth and health.

Lack of clean seed is a major contributor to the low potato yields in sub-Saharan Africa. Farmer perceptions, adoption and effects of quality seed potato in sub-Saharan Africa was the subject of one of the keynote addresses by Dr. Julius Okello. Dr. Okello is an impact assessment specialist with the international Potato Center in sub-Saharan Africa.

“Most small holder farmers, more than 95% source seed from local sources and such seed is often infected by pests and diseases, especially viruses and bacteria wilt,” he said. He described some factors that affect investment in clean potato seed, such as distance to the market, perceptions about availability of markets, gender and access to land etc.

The second day started off on a high note, with a keynote address on the Netherlands Public Private Partnerships aimed at co-innovation in the potato value chain in emerging markets. The address was delivered by Dr. Anton J. Haverkort, who currently coordinates potato research projects at Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands.

Dr. Ted Carey, the Regional Sweetpotato Breeder for West Africa with the International Potato Center, presented the uptake, adaptation, and output of the Accelerated Breeding Programme for Sweetpotato in sub-Saharan Africa. The breeding work is part of the Sweetpotato for Profit and Health Initiative (SPHI) which is a coalition of organization and projects that seek to reach 10 million households in 17 sub-Saharan countries by 2020.

In breakout sessions, participants continued to delve more in-depth into the five themes of the conference. For example, under the theme on seed and cropping systems, Kwame Ogero from the International Potato Center (CIP) presented a 21-month study that had demonstrated, that farmers could use affordable net tunnel technology to effectively maintain clean sweetpotato planting material in Tanzania. James Mugo, also from CIP, presented a case study of the identification of potato yield-limiting nutrients in Meru and Nyandarua regions in Kenya. A  third presenter, Shadrack Nyawade (University of Nairobi) talked about a field study that was carried out using run-off plots during the rainy seasons of 2014-2015 to evaluate the soil organic matter fraction that was most susceptible to soil erosion under sole and mixed potato-cropping systems. The study confirmed that increasing run-off with more energy was able to detach and disintegrate soil aggregation and release the encapsulated organic carbon. Soil erosion losses can be reduced under potato cropping by integrating legume cover crops.

Conference participants unwind during  a traditional night at Totot Hotel in Addis Ababa (A. Ndayisenga)

Conference participants unwind during a traditional night at Totot Hotel in Addis Ababa (A. Ndayisenga)

The exhibition area was a hive of activity during the breaks. Antonio Magnaghi (Euro Ingredients) set up and demonstrated the use of a simple, compact technology to produce high-fibre orange-fleshed puree, which can be used to substitute wheat in bakery products and is being commercialized in Mozambique, Kenya, Ghana, Rwanda and a few other countries across Africa. Another highlight of the second day was the selection and announcement of the top five posters. These posters will be given three minute presentation slots on the final conference day, after which they will be subjected to a voting process by participants to select the winning posters.

After the intensely engaging day, all roads led to Totot restaurant for a traditional evening of Ethiopian cuisine, dancing and networking.