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€5m Irish potato growing programme announced for Ethiopia

Irish development agency Vita has launched a Potato Centre of Excellence in Africa with an aim to provide sustainable access to food for two million people.

Image: angsthase via Creative Commons/Flickr

A MAJOR PROGRAMME for growing Irish potatoes in southern Ethiopia has been launched today, which aims to give sustainable food access for up to two million people.

Under the Vita Potato Scheme, local farmers can take out a ‘loan’ of a bag of seed potatoes that can be returned the following year alongside a donation of another bag. In such a way, it is hoped that farmers will be provided with seed for years to come and that millions of people will be reliably fed.

Vita, an Irish international development agency, says its vision is to forge long-term international partnerships which “empower rural communities to sustain their livelihoods”.

Launching the €5 million Vita Potato Centre of Excellence today, the Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney said the programme was “a wonderful collaboration” of Irish agri-food expertise by Teagasc and the Irish Potato Federation alongside the development-based knowledge of Vita and their international partners.

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Mr Simon Coveney, TD Launches the VITA Spud Bank Centre of Excellence with the Ambassador of Ethiopia to Ireland, Her Excellency Lela- Alem Gabreyohannes.

“The generous support of the Irish Potato Federation in supporting model farms and developing local industry as well as Teagasc in developing local research-advisory service linkage shows that the Irish agri-food sector has much to offer other countries seeking to learn from our experiences. I wish the project every success,” he said.

Director of Teagasc, Professor Gerry Boyle, said that food security and climate change were “global issues that cannot be solved by any individual country alone.” The launch of the Vita Potato Centre of Excellence in Africa was an “excellent example of international collaborative research and development on sustainable food security,” he added.

John Weakliam, Vita CEO, insisted the project was about technology transfer and business partnership – not aid. He said that the Potato Centre of Excellence could bring about a key solution to the African food challenge by allowing farmers to “own their own destiny”.

Ethiopia’s ambassador to Ireland, Her Excellency Lela-Alem Gebreyohannes, also welcomed the establishment of the programme, saying: “We are keen to develop through strategic, long term partnerships that benefit all stakeholders. The Vita Potato Centre of Excellence is an exciting step for the people of Ethiopia, and should serve as a template for replication across Africa.”

Read: Ireland gives €5 million in emergency funding to Sahel region>

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