TANZANIA TIMES
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It is Soon Going to Rain Potatoes in East Africa

‘Look at that moon. Potato weather for sure.’ This is a quote from the American Writer, Thornton Niven Wilder and may also apply to East Africa’s new potato initiative

Potato farmers in Kenya. The seven East African countries have only 400,000 hectares dedicated to potatoes

In the Southern Highlands of Tanzania, the Potato is a gender biased crop.

Known in Kiswahili as “Viazi,’ singular “Kiazi!” Potatoes there are usually cultivated by women and mostly for domestic consumption as light midday meal.

In recent days however, the English Potato varieties became popular in urban centers where they are being chopped and deep fried to make the country’s own version of ‘French Fries.’

“No Chips with that!” At least to maintain weight

But with minimal land dedicated to potato farming, East Africa is still far from making a mark as far the production of the underground tubers is concerned.

To save the day, and the crop, the East African Community and the East African Business Council with back-up from the German Development Agency, are teaming up to create a new platform which adds value to locally grown potatoes.

For starters the three entities have launched the ‘Jumuiya Potato Platform,’ which is essential an East African Community’s Potato value-chain platform.

A statement from the East African Business Council says the platform aims to harness the potential of the potato crops in the region.

Through the value chain more than 2.2 million potato farmers from the seven East African countries are to be assisted in boosting production, adding value and realize better and profitable markets for the food crop.

Hapa Kiazi Tu!

The Jumuiya Potato Platform is being embedded in the Public-Private Partnership structure to enable sustainable research, innovation and free trade right from the potato seed.

It follows a series of engagements between stakeholders representing national governments on the public front, farmers and traders on the private side with guidance from the EAC Secretariat and the East African Business Council.

Facilitated by German Development Agency (GIZ) the Jumuiya Potato Platform was officially launched in Kampala Uganda during the meeting chaired by Dr Irene Musebe from Kenya’s Ministry of East African Community and Regional Development.

The world’s top potato producers are China, India, Russia, Ukraine and the United States.

But with the ongoing war in Eastern Europe, potato supplies may be affected and it is time East African Region moves in to feel the likely vacuum.

The EAC Director of Productive Sector Jean Baptiste Havugimana expressed concern that potatoes are currently cultivated on a measly 400,000 hectares in East Africa.

“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 maintained.

The EABC Chief Executive, John Bosco Kalisa said post-harvest crop loss cost the East African Region over USD 240 Million annually, advising that the new platform should also address this issue.

The new  Jumuiya Potato Platform comprises of  Wachira Kanguogo of Kenya as Chairman; Fidel Gahungu from Burundi as rapporteur; Tullah Mlonge and Rose Ndomba (Tanzania); Mbarushimana Salomon and Dr Nduwumuremyi Athanasi of Rwanda; Jimmy Koto and Lawrence Olika(South Sudan); Komayombi Bulegeya and Elungu Moses (Uganda); Simon Maina from Kenya and Ernest Vyizigiro of Burundi.

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