- IAPN in Dialogue discusses “Potato Potentials in Africa”

As part of its series of events “IAPN in Dialogue” the Institute of Applied Plant Nutrition – IAPN focused on the importance of potatoes as a means of fighting hunger and poverty in Africa. International lecturers met with students, scientists and other participants in order to discuss challenges such as the availability of know-how on potato-growing, access to means of production and the development of a stable value-added chain.


Press Release of 2016-06-28


Both nourishing and healthy, potatoes have taken on a primary role in establishing food security in African countries. Beyond that, this crop may potentially provide subsistence farmers with additional income. In order to realize this potential, however, it is necessary to meet the potato’s requirements in terms of nutrients, storage and infrastructure – this is the conclusion of a discussion at one of the special events within the “IAPN in Dialogue” series of events.


Florian Dieker perfectly introduced the topic by providing an overview of international potato cultivation, ranging from Ethiopian peasants to high-tech large-scale production in the US. Dieker, who earned his master‘s degree at the University of Göttingen, had embarked on what he termed his “Personal World Potato Tour” in 2013. “The challenges faced by potato farmers differ greatly from country to country, always depending on local conditions,” said the potato-globetrotter. “There’s a world of difference between the 47 tonnes on average per hectare harvested in the US, and the 11 tonnes on average harvested by an Ethiopian small farmer, whose situation is often exacerbated by extremely fluctuating yields.“


Dr. Elmar Schulte-Geldermann from the Nairobi branch office of the International Potato Center (CIP) explained the relevance of potatoes for securing both food supply and income for African small farmers. In many African highland regions, potatoes are the second most important food after maize. In his talk, Schulte-Geldermann illustrated the importance of high-quality and regionally adapted seed potatoes and use of suitable varieties for improving potato cultivation. “Yield volume and quality largely depend on the quality and suitability of the seed potatoes used. The CIP’s Seed Potato for Africa Program therefore aims at integrated measures in order to significantly raise seed quality in African potato cultivation. Without healthy seed potatoes other measures such as improved fertilization and harvesting techniques will not really take effect,” Schulte-Geldermann explained.


According to Dominik Fortenbacher from the Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) it is indispensable to look at the entire potato value-added chain, making improvements on a variety of levels. “There are several difficulties, beginning with deteriorating soil fertility and outdated cultivation techniques all the way to non-existing marketing standards. Regionally adapted solutions therefore need to address a great range of obstacles, and in order to do so need to bring together appropriate partners,” Fortenbacher sums up his experience from many GIZ projects. “To develop networks together with stable public-private partnerships is not easy, but indispensable to international projects.” Based on previously completed projects, the GIZ is currently launching its “Promotion of Nutrition Sensitive Potato Value Chain Project”, to be implemented from 2016 – 2021.


Corporate experience and the importance of a well-functioning nutrient supply for realizing the yield potential of potatoes were introduced by Prof. Dr. Andreas Gransee, Head of Research & Advisory of the K+S KALI GmbH. For a number of years the fertilizer manufacturer has supported the project „Growth for Uganda“, focusing on the development of advisory and delivery infrastructure to serve Uganda’s small-scale farmers. “In Uganda we’ve seen again and again just how important this so-called `last mile´ is to smallholders. This is just as true for know-how as it is for means of production,” Gransee reports. This is all the more relevant as potatoes require a steady supply of nutrients. “Working together with local partners we have developed customized compound fertilizers in smaller packages. The mixtures are designed to for local soil conditions, and their smaller size makes them affordable to smallholders.”


The relevance of a well-functioning knowledge transfer for realizing yield potentials and the experience made with various advisory systems in Ethiopia, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Mali were the topics of a contribution by Dr. Shamie Zingore. Born in Zimbabwe, Dr. Zingore now works as Regional Director for the Sub-Saharan Africa Program of the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI). In his opinion, the lack of access to know-how on the side of small farmers is one of the greatest impediments to development. In order to alleviate this situation, the IPNI and global fertilize industry has come up with the “4R Nutrient Stewardship” program with the intention of transferring to farmers the best cultivation practices for maize, rice, potatoes and millet. Participating farms showed yield increases of 20 – 60 per cent over three years. “Decisive for success is that research, advisory and practice communicate on a regular basis, and are willing to learn from each other. Experience therefore continuously flows into the further development of the 4R Nutrient Stewardship,” says Zingore.


After a very lively discussion on the potentials and challenges presented by potato cultivation in Africa, Prof. Dr. Klaus Dittert closed the meeting by expressing his gratitude to all participants: “I am pleased that once again we had an opportunity to learn from each other and to discuss a variety of issues, on an international level. To be continued in December!” The next IAPN in Dialogue is scheduled for 6 December 2016. International experts will present and discuss their views on “Wheat for Food Security and Health: The World Needs More”.

In order to promote the exchange of information between visiting scientists or international experts and students, researchers and other participants from various fields on issues related to plant nutrition and agriculture, IAPN has established a series of events titled “IAPN in Dialogue”.



Photos for the press

Download of photos in print quality.


Prof. Dr. Klaus Dittert, Gastgeber und wissenschaftlicher Leiter des IAPN. Download (JPEG-File; 4,8 MB)

Caption: Prof. Dr. Klaus Dittert, Host and scientific Head of the IAPN. (Photo: IAPN)


Die Referenten und Organisatoren (v.l.h.n.r.v.): Dr. Shamie Zingore, Prof. Dr. Klaus Dittert, Prof. Dr. Andreas Gransee, Elisabeth Morgen, Dominik Fortenbacher, Florian Dieker, Dr. Elmar Schulte-Geldermann. Download (JPEG-File; 4,8 MB)

Caption: The speakers and hosts (LTR): Dr. Shamie Zingore, Prof. Dr. Klaus Dittert, Prof. Dr. Andreas Gransee, Elisabeth Morgen, Dominik Fortenbacher, Florian Dieker, Dr. Elmar Schulte-Geldermann. (Photo: IAPN)


Die Referenten und Organisatoren (v.l.n.r.): Elisabeth Morgen, Dr. Shamie Zingore, Prof. Dr. Klaus Dittert, Florian Dieker, Dr. Elmar Schulte-Geldermann, Prof. Dr. Andreas Gransee, Dominik Fortenbacher. Download (JPEG-File; 5,7 MB)

Caption: The speakers and hosts (LTR): Elisabeth Morgen, Dr. Shamie Zingore, Prof. Dr. Klaus Dittert, Florian Dieker, Dr. Elmar Schulte-Geldermann, Prof. Dr. Andreas Gransee, Dominik Fortenbacher. (Photo: IAPN)


Publikum. Download (JPEG-File; 5,1 MB)

Caption: Audience. (Photo: IAPN)


Florian Dieker. Download (JPEG-File; 6,4 MB)

Caption: Florian Dieker. (Photo: IAPN)


Dr. Elmar Schulte-Geldermann, CIP. Download (JPEG-File; 5,7 MB)

Caption: Dr. Elmar Schulte-Geldermann, CIP. (Photo: IAPN)


Dominik Fortenbacher, GIZ. Download (JPEG-File; 5,1 MB)

Caption: Dominik Fortenbacher, GIZ. (Photo: IAPN)


Prof. Dr. Andreas Gransee, K+S KALI GmbH. Download (JPEG-File; 5,8 MB)

Caption: Prof. Dr. Andreas Gransee, K+S KALI GmbH (Photo: IAPN)


Dr. Shamie Zingore, IPNI. Download (JPEG-File; 6,4 MB)

Caption: Dr. Shamie Zingore, IPNI. (Photo: IAPN)


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