Notes to broadcasters on potatoes as a staple crop

    | January 21, 2013

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    Potatoes have been called a “food of the future” by the United Nations. Though potatoes are grown in 125 countries across the globe, there is much potential for further production and better yields, especially in Africa.

    The potato has many wonderful qualities. For example, the edible potato tuber weighs about 85 per cent of the entire potato plant. In contrast, in wheat, maize and rice, only the seed head is edible, which makes up about 50 per cent of the weight of the plant. Thus, the potato produces from two to four times more food value per hectare than grains do. Potatoes are nutritious, with high levels of carbohydrates, vitamins C and B, and minerals such as iron. While potatoes do face pest problems, these difficulties are being successfully met by researchers and farmers working together.

    Potatoes are a promising food for meeting the needs of both subsistence and cash crop farmers, and for addressing poverty and malnutrition. In the region of Madagascar discussed in this week’s news story, potatoes are a good crop choice for farmers because they are well-suited to local soil conditions, and have become an important staple food.  The potato’s ability to produce more food on less land in a shorter time means that potatoes are well worth celebrating. Because of the potato’s many benefits, the United Nations named 2008 as the International Year of the Potato.

    Following are some Farm Radio International resources on potatoes and sweet potatoes:
    -“Zimbabwe: Potato farming offers hope to HIV positive farmer” (FRW #227, December 2012)
    Sawdust prolongs the storage life of potatoes (Package 90, Script 1, April 2010)
    Mr. or Mrs. Potato of the Year! (Package 86, Script 10, December 2008)
    Research in Rwanda aims for a good harvest of sweet potatoes (Package 86, Script 11, December 2008)
    Orange sweet potatoes (Package 86, Script 12, December 2008)

    Do farmers in your broadcast area produce potatoes or sweet potatoes? Are they an important staple crop or a vegetable that makes up a small part of the local diet? Here are a couple ideas for radio programs about potatoes:
    1) Host a call-in or text-in show inviting farmers to discuss the role of potatoes on their farm and in their family’s meals. Consider welcoming topics as serious as the role of the potato as a security crop and as simple as favourite potato recipes.
    2) Gather a panel of guests knowledgeable about farming and nutrition (such as farmers, agricultural leaders, ministry representatives, and/or members of NGOs) to discuss orange-fleshed sweet-potato. Explore topics such as the value of orange-fleshed sweet potatoes in providing Vitamin A (and therefore helping to maintain good health) and tips on growing orange-fleshed sweet potatoes under local conditions.