Seeds of Expertise for Africa’s Potato Sector

Increased smallholder farmer income, and national food and nutrition security is the ‘Seeds of Expertise for the Potato Industry of Africa’ (SEPIA) programme's main ambition. SEPIA aims to transform the potato sector in sub-Saharan African countries, by using Hybrid True Potato Seed (HTPS) as a catalyst. To implement such a programme and integrate HTPS in potato systems, a coalition of Dutch and African partners is needed. KIT Royal Tropical Institute has conducted a scoping study which also included coalition building and resource mobilisation, which was supported by Netherlands Food Partnership (NFP) and the Private Seed sector Development Project (PSSD) Burundi.

Sepia p. 47 HTPS plantlets DRC

Read the report

HTPS makes the potato sector more sustainable

HTPS is a highly innovative technology that has four crucial advantages: (i) seed production has a very high multiplication rate, (ii) seed is much easier to handle and distribute compared to tubers, (iii) the seeds are pathogen free, and (iv) the technology allows for rapid breeding, e.g. for resistance to drought and diseases. Integrating HTPS requires a fundamental change in the potato seed system.

To realise the SEPIA outcomes a central knowledge hub, with expertise, applied research abilities and a training and advisory mandate will be established with African partners in an appropriate country. Such a hub enables building African expertise to assure African ownership and expertise for South-South collaboration. In each targeted country for potato sector transformation, a SEPIA satellite project will be initiated, in partnership with local organisations. SEPIA satellite projects are envisioned as an embedded component of a larger potato value chain, horticulture sector or seed sector development project, rather than being an independent stand-alone project.

It is believed that such a programme can double the use of high-quality seed potatoes by smallholders, double their average potato yield and income, and reduce the consumer market price of potatoes by 25%. Consequently, this will make it an accessible mainstream alternative staple for grain crops.

Strong motivation of the potato sector stakeholders

Participants in stakeholder meetings held in Kenya, Uganda, Burundi and Ethiopia, showed strong motivation to supply smallholder producers with high quality potato planting material. Partners also confirmed that public-private collaboration is necessary to introduce HTPS in the potato seed tuber system, in a deliberate and coordinated manner. Making HTPS activities a component of a larger project and as such building on existing activities and collaborative partner relations, is considered to be a sensible approach.

Next steps

The report presents opportunities for satellite projects in different countries and options for the location of the central knowledge hub. During the scoping study, promising funding opportunities were identified and scenarios for the central knowledge hub were developed, which will be pursued further. Such a sector transformation requires a long breath and significant public-private investments which is a challenge. Next steps will include discussing the findings with the Dutch private sector, Dutch embassies including Agricultural Counselours, and (inter)national research institutes with a view towards generating a commitment and funding.