Tanzania-Netherlands ties will help improve potato production in Tanzania

The Ambassador of the Kingdom of The Netherlands to Tanzania, Wiebe de Boer (centre) in a group photo with Potato Recipe Challenge winners and other embassy staff.

Whether baked, fried, or mashed, these taters bring on the flavor. Filling a void for appetizer dishes and working double duty at suppertime, these versa-tile tuber veggies satisfy and fill us up.

According to the International Potato Center, more than 4,000 varieties of potatoes grow around the world. Not only that, but also they come in a variety of beautiful colors and sizes.

Due to the importance of the potato, on August 19 every year world celebrate potato day to increase awareness about the importance of the crop socially and economically.

In Tanzania, The Netherlands has been an important stakeholder in promoting and developing the production and use of the potato crop. Speaking with the Citizen during the commemoration of the World Potato Day which was held at the Embassy, the Ambassador of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Tanzania, Wiebe de Boer says the day is designated to draw attention to the importance of the crop and bring out critical issues in the production and supply chain while ensuring potato contribution to sustainable agriculture and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially goals relative to hunger, achieving food security, improving nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

He says in Tanzania, potato crops is predominantly smallholders in a low input-output farming system. As a crop, the potato has the potential to make a significant contribution to food and nutrition security because it is a nutrient-dense food and can be well suited to the local farming systems.

With the availability of improved Dutch potato seed varieties, farmers have an opportunity to increase efficiency in farming which will trigger more investments and trade within and across the sector creating an immediate and long-term impact on income generation, employment and entrepreneurship, food insecurity, and climate change resilience, especially for the participation of small-holder farmers.

Given that, de Boer has urged youth to prioritize and take up potato farming due to its numerous benefits as well as the growing demand for the product locally and in the international market.

“I want to encourage the youth and public in general to take up potato farming so as to increase their incomes, we at the embassy have been supporting a number of initiatives to help farmers especially in southern highland regions to venture into the agriculture of various crops including potatoes and avocados,” says de Boer.

He says if well grown, the potato crop can secure a market inside and outside the country including Kenya, the DRC Congo and other nearby markets.

According to the ambassador, this is a venture that has enable many farmers to generate millions of cash in The Netherlands due to the quality of seeds as well as adhering to modern farming practice and if Tanzanians will make this crop their main priority, it will earn them a lot of money transform their lives.

The Ambassador of the Kingdom of The Netherlands to Tanzania, Wiebe de Boer hands over a gift to the winner of the Potato Recipe Challenge, Elice Lekasino.

Speaking about how The Netherlands support the production of potatoes in the country, de Boer says, the potato sector is one of the strategic value chain for the Embassy. In June 2016, Tanzania and The Netherlands signed an agreement on building capacity for developing the potato seed industry; Followed by a MoU to develop the potato industry in Tanzania.

“As a result of these agreements, 12 Dutch potato varieties are released in the Tanzania market including potato seed that are all diseases resistant, providing farmers with the choice to access improved potato varieties. As a result of these varieties, farmers’ yields have improved from 8-10 tons per hectare to 25-40 tons per hectare depending on best practices,” says de Boer. 

He says this is the opportunity which youth and all Tanzanians can pounce on so the government should increase efforts in researching more areas that are suitable for growing the crop and support the youth to establish big potato farms field for the country’s development. The Netherlands is also working very closely with Tanzania’s ministry of Agriculture on training plant health inspectors to carry out proper pest risk analysis and certification. The potato industry in Tanzania demands integrated and multi-sector approaches improving potato production systems and markets.

Such approaches should combine the promotion of broad-based agricultural growth and rural development with programs that directly target on making agriculture more appealing and attractive especially to the youth.

“The Dutch embassy will continue working closely with the government of Tanzania and the private sector to sup-port the implementation of several development initiatives including the agriculture sector particularly potato farming,” says de Boer.

The commemoration went along with awarding three young Tanzanians for winning in a special challenge called “Potato Recipe Challenge” ran by the embassy. They also received certificates of appreciation and other gifts for their outstanding creativities in making various dishes by using potatoes. Speaking about the challenge, Ambassador de Boer says it is about communicating with the youth and public in general to create awareness and influence on consuming more potatoes by offering ideas and options for dishes, hence designed a potato recipe challenge.

“One limitation on consuming the crop is awareness of different methods of meal preparation and cuisine options from the potato to cater for consumer preferences. Traditionally, the Tanzania market has been on two options “French Fries” and “Chips Mayai” creating a relatively narrow niche market for consumers of the two choices. The potato challenge was meant to showcase various meals and expand consumer choices,” says Ambassador de Boer.

Ambassador de Boer says Tanzanians at large were invited to share various recipes and ways of preparing a meal from potato crop through a 30 seconds video, whereby three selected winners were invited to the embassy to celebrate world potato day.

Potato Recipe Challenge winner’s comments

One of the winners of the Potato Recipe Challenge, Elice Lekasio, commended the Embassy for coming with the challenge as it not only helped her improve knowledge on making several dishes of the crop, but also it has helped many other Tanzanians to understand the health and economic importance of potatoes. “I saw the challenge and decide to participate, I thank God that my dish has emerged the best of all,” says Elice.

Renatha Edgar also showed her creativity and execution in preparing different dishes of potato. She says, “I am very happy to participate in this challenge because it has helped me to continue to believe in myself that I can make different dishes using potatoes.”

The Netherlands is the world’s major supplier of certified seed potatoes, so through that experience, The Embassy of The Kingdom of The Netherlands in Tanzania has had strong strategies to ensure that the crop is produced and used in abundance to promote its contribution to the economy.