The 10th Triennial African Potato Association (APA) Conference kicks off in Ethiopia
By Christine Bukania
The 10th Triennial African Potato Association (APA) Conference kicked off today, 10 October 2016 at the UNECA conference Centre in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The conference was officially opened by the State Minister, Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, H.E. AtoAto Wondirad Mandefro, who welcomed the over 300 participants from research, public and private sectors and the development sector and outlined his country’s commitment to addressing food insecurity, malnutrition and economic growth through the implementation of sound agricultural policies that take advantage of scientific research and technological advances, and how this commitment had translated into economic gains.
Prior to the welcome address, Dr. Endale Gebre, the APA President, in his opening remarks, explained that the association had created opportunities for scientists across Africa to review progress in potato and sweetpotato research, and to exchange knowledge and strive to create stronger linkages between science, the farms and consumers. Dr. Fentahun Mengistu, the Director General of Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) explained that between 2005 and 2009, potato production had gone up from eight million to 29 million tonnes, an increase of over 50%. In addition, sweetpotato production was currently at 18 tonnes, and had potential to grow to 35 tonnes through the use of improved varieties. He outlined the challenges facing potato and sweetpotato production, such as biotic and abiotic constraints, lack of improved varieties and week seed systems, as well as postharvest weaknesses. He urged participants to focus their research on addressing these challenges to ensure that the crops reached their potential.
Ethiopia is an appropriate venue for this year’s event. The country’s economy is agriculture based, and the sector contributes over 50% of the GDP. Since 1950s and 1960s, agricultural research centres have been developing agricultural technologies that have raised the potential of potato and sweetpotato as food security crops. Potato research started in 1975 under the auspices of EIAR. Since then, about 34 improved potato varieties were produced and promoted in the country.
The next three days will have keynote addresses and oral presentations on the following themes:
- Breeding, germplasm exchange and trade
- Nutrition, health and technology adoption
- Seed systems and cropping systems
- Climate change adaptation and mitigation
- Opportunities and challenges of private sector
In addition, there will be an ongoing exhibition and poster presentation, with the best three posters being awarded.