On 11 October 2016, the APA Council, led by outgoing president, Dr. Endale Gebre, announced that Rwanda would host the next Triennial African Potato Association Conference. APA members voted in new council members: Dr. Francis Amagloh for West Africa, Dr. Felistus Chipungu for Southern Africa, and Dr. Julius Okello for East and Central Africa. The regional council member will be announced following confirmation of nomination. As the next host of the APA conference, Rwanda now assumes the presidency of the council.
The announcement was made at the 10th Triennial African Potato Association (APA), which took place between 10 and 12 October 2016 in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa that was hosted by the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) and was attended by over 300 participants from research, public and private sectors and the development sector.
The main theme of the conference was “Potato and Sweetpotato for Better Wealth and Health. It featured keynote addresses as well as oral and poster presentations on the following sub-themes: breeding, germplasm exchange and trade; nutrition, health and technology adoption; seed systems and cropping systems; climate change adaptation and mitigation; and opportunities and challenges of private sector.
Ethiopia was 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 the 1950s and 1960s, agricultural research centres have been developing technologies that have helped to increase the role 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.
During his opening remarks, Dr. Fentahun Mengistu, the Director General of 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 18 tonnes, and had potential to grow to 35 tonnes through the use of improved varieties. Dr. Mengistu also outlined the challenges that were facing the production of potato and sweetpotato, such as biotic and abiotic constraints, lack of improved varieties and week seed systems, as well as postharvest weaknesses. He urged participants to focus on more research to address these challenges to ensure that the crops reached their potential.
Speaking at the opening, the Minister for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Ato Tefera Deribew, 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.
Other highlights from the APA conference
Another highlight of the conference was the exhibition, which was a hive of activity during the breaks. Antonio Magnaghi (Euro Ingredients) demonstrated the use of a simple, compact technology to produce high-fibre orange-fleshed puree, which can be used to substitute wheat in bakery products and is being commercialized in Mozambique, Kenya, Ghana, Rwanda and a few other countries across Africa.
The poster presentations were evaluated by a panel of three judges, and the five shortlisted presenters were given three-minute slots to make oral presentations. Damian Laryea from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana won the poster contest with a majority vote by participants. His poster portrayed the development of complementary baby food from orange-fleshed sweetpotato, which is higher in vitamin A than other baby foods in the market.
The EIAR also ensured that there were opportunities to network and experience the Ethiopian cuisine and culture. The institute hosted a cocktail and invited participants to a traditional evening at the famous Totot restaurant.