Ireland’s leadership role in fighting world hunger was showcased at a Vita exhibition in the EU Parliament in Brussels recently, with the humble potato taking centre stage.
The exhibition featured Irish charity Vita’s potato centre of excellence in Ethiopia and was hosted by Irish MEP, Gay Mitchell, to mark Ireland’s Presidency of the EU. It showed how Ireland’s and Europe’s finest potato researchers, farmers and traders intend to make the potato Africa’s new “hunger-busting crop” for millions of small farmers. “There is no country in the world more than Ireland which understands famine and the potential of a good potato crop,” Mr. Mitchell said.
Opening the exhibition, Minister of Trade and Development Joe Costello said: “Combining aid with farming expertise and research can transform the farming landscape in Africa. The Government has been a significant supporter of Vita for many years, including the Potato Centre of Excellence, for which Irish Aid is contributing almost €300,000 in 2012 and 2013. Irish Aid recognises the importance of solid research findings in informing farmer practice and subsequently improving livelihoods.”
Attending the occasion for Teagasc, Area Manager for Louth, Larry O’Loughlin said “Vita’s Potato Centre of Excellence is a great way of using Ireland’s success in transferring knowledge and building capacity to farmers in Africa”.
Vita’s Potato Centre of Excellence pulls together science, business and development agencies who apply their expertise right from the seed through to marketing of the potato and processing products such as crisps. Ethiopian Ambassador to Ireland Lela-Alem Gebreyohannes earlier described the potato programme as linking Ethiopia’s aim of self-sufficiency and business partnership with Ireland”.
The programme budget of €3 million is aimed at 60,000 potato farmers in Southern Ethiopia. In the long term the programme targets three million potato farmers in East Africa through a wider coalition involving such NGOs as Self Help Africa, state farm agency Teagasc and the Irish Potato Federation.