The IYP mission: Celebration of the International Year of the Potato (IYP) will raise awareness of the importance of the potato - and of agriculture in general - in addressing issues of global concern, including hunger, poverty and threats to the environment.
IYP 2008: Challenges and opportunities
The International Year of Potato aims at raising the profile of this globally important food crop and commodity, giving emphasis to its biological and nutritional attributes, and thus promoting its production, processing, consumption, marketing and trade. Celebration of IYP 2008 is an opportunity to make a valid and effective contribution towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals:
Food Security - improving access to safe and nutritious food
Despite the great increase in global food production over the past half-century, many individuals and communities - mainly in rural areas - do not have physical or financial access to food year round. Undernourishment places vulnerable people in a downward spiral of bad health that frequently ends in death. By disrupting access to traditional sources of nutrition, HIV/AIDS and social and political conflicts create large groups of at-risk individuals. In addition, many developing countries face a "double burden" of malnutrition: the persistence of undernutrition, along with a rapid rise in overweight due to unhealthy diets associated with urbanization. Nutrient-rich potato (and sweet potato) can contribute to improved diets thus reducing mortality rates caused by malnutrition. As well as improving food security, such action will inevitably improve the health of target populations, especially women and children.
IYP can focus global attention on the need to reach the vulnerable with solutions that reduce constraints, create opportunities, improve productivity and reduce risks in the farming systems on which they depend.
Many farm families are caught in a "poverty trap" in which limited livelihood options conspire to keep them poor. Those livelihoods often need either slight or radical reworking to provide consistent income that enables the family to move out of - and stay out of - poverty. Local markets once safe from outside competition now face increased penetration from a wide range of suppliers due to globalization and urbanization. Learning to innovate and engage with markets, and to become more competitive, are challenges for small scale farm families. In order to compete in regional and global markets, they need yield-improving and input-saving technologies to help close the persistent yield and cost gap.
IYP can focus global attention on the need to alleviate poverty by increasing incomes and linking farmers to markets.
Sustainable use of biodiversity
To overcome the multiple challenges of plant pests and diseases, low yields, natural resources degradation, drought and climate change, potato-based agricultural systems need a continual supply of new, improved varieties. That requires access to the genetic resources contained in the totality of potato biodiversity, which needs to be conserved, yet at the same time made available to researchers and breeders in a responsible and equitable way.
IYP can focus global attention on the range of actions needed to protect, conserve and utilize potato diversity.
Sustainable intensification of potato-based farming systems
Most of the world's farms are less than 2 ha in size. In sub-Saharan Africa and many parts of Asia, farms are still shrinking and may continue to do so for the next several generations. As farm size shrinks, many farm families are switching from grains and legumes to root and tuber crops to meet subsistence and income goals. Farms with declining area are being managed more and more intensively, leading to soil erosion and ecological imbalances that encourage pest and disease outbreaks.
The IYP can focus global attention on solutions for sustainable intensification of farming systems that will stop or reverse the loss of natural resources.
Some Millennium Development Goals to which IYP can contribute
Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
Goal 4: Reduce child mortality
Goal 5: Improve maternal health
Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability
Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development