The East African Business Council (EABC) launched the regional seed potato strategy and action plan for 2022-2032 that aims at improving sustainable and inclusive agricultural production at the three-day workshop conference held at Imperial Royale Hotel over the weekend.
It was at the workshop that it was announced that over two million potato farmers within the East African Community (EAC) will benefit from Jumuiya, a value chain support platform funded by the German Development Agency (GIZ).
According to George Okundi, the GIZ regional coordinator and expert agro-processing, support to Regional Industrial Value Addition (RIVA), the project worth over Euros 1.6m (sh5.6b) was formulated in 2019 after the negotiation between the EAC and the government of German after discovering that Irish potato is a key commodity in the region which would be used as an instrument of regional integration.
“The project was launched after negotiation in 2020 and 2021 and key results have been achieved in all the 6 member states of the EAC including developing a strategy and action plan key stake holders who have received training in managing seeds for increasing productivity among the farmers,” he said.
Okundi said between August and November 2020, country level studies were conducted in each EAC partner state by a team of consultants with support from GIZ and they will help over 125,000 farmers from Uganda and they are working with 6 (six) potato organisation like National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO), the Dutch embassy and the International Fertilizer Development Center, among others.
“We are looking forward to use stakeholders in the sectors especially other development partners to come and take up the suggestions in short and mid-term to enable proceeding the project further on how they can be able to sustain activities on potato,” he added.
According to Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), In the last 20 years and the potato subsector which is estimated at over 2.2 million farmers across the EAC partner states earning a living has now been formalized under a Public Private Partnership structure to enable sustainable research, innovation and free trade right from the potato seed.
The potato is ranked among the top 10 strategic staple crops for food and income value-chain platform to be known as the Jumuiya Potato Platform.
This platform is to harness the potential of the potato value chain in the region to enable proper production and commercialization of the food crop on the realization that it is one of the key agricultural produces traded and consumed widely.
Speaking at the meeting chaired by Dr Irene Musebe of MEACA Kenya, the EAC director Productive Sectors Jean Baptiste Havugimana noted that this initiative will go a long way in scaling up the production and marketing of the food crop which is currently cultivated on slightly over 400,000 hectares.
“We need to harness the potential of the potato sub sector to fight poverty but also ensure food security right from producing our own potato seed which is largely imported from Europe,” Havugimana said.
John Boco Kalisa, the EABC CEO who was the chief guest, also presented a key-note address on the competitiveness of regional value chains. He appealed to both the public and private sectors to work together towards having policies that will promote the sub sector and see that it overcomes challenges like post-harvest loses which are estimated at USD 240m per year. He listed several recommendations that the platform leadership elected from the delegates should pursue so that intra-regional trade in the potato value chain can be boosted.
“While cross-border trade can be a major challenge in practice, the policy advocacy platform should facilitate flow of technical and market related information so that regulations are harmonised to favor better standards and prices in the interest of the farmers and consumers,” Kalisa said.
Story and photos filed by Aloysious Kasoma