Plant Production and Protection

The potato can strengthen food security and livelihoods

World Potato Congress hosts webinar to promote International Day of Potato

Potato Flowers | International Day of Potato FAO

©FAO/Giulio Napolitano


Global agrifood systems are facing challenges to feed the world’s growing population and the potato can provide an effective solution. That was the key message delivered at a webinar held by the World Potato Congress on Monday, 29 April, ahead of International Potato Day on 30 May. 

The International Day, declared by the UN General Assembly last year, aims to build on the legacy of the International Year of Potato (2008) and reaffirm the importance of the potato value chain in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. 

André Devaux, a Member of the World Potato Congress’ Board of Directors and an independent consultant and scientist emeritus at the International Potato Center (CIP), said that cultivating potatoes can provide incomes and sustainable livelihoods for farmers.

He stressed that the potato was a resilient crop with a high yield capacity, a short growing cycle and had a low carbon footprint.  

Devaux noted that 1.3 billion people now consume potatoes worldwide but said consumption was still far behind that of wheat and rice. “It is a cash crop but also provides food for domestic consumption. It can play an important role in food crises,” Devaux said.

This year’s theme for the International Day is “Harvesting diversity, feeding hope” – a recognition of both the crop’s significant genetic diversity and its yet unharnessed potential in the quest to achieve universal food security and nutrition. 

Chikelu Mba, Deputy Director of FAO’s Plant Production and Protection Division, said that one out of every ten people in the world was dealing with some form of hunger and malnutrition and in sub-Saharan Africa the rate was even higher, affecting 20 percent of the population.

He said that worsening climate change and urbanization had added to the challenges, and that farmers were also confronting issues with pests and diseases and conflicts over natural resources.  

“What is required is a meaningful evaluation of the problems that constrain the crop’s value chain so context-specific solutions can be found,” Mba told the webinar during a question-and-answer session.

The observance of the International Day is also an opportunity to recognize the roles of small-scale farmers, especially in the Andean highlands, whose production practices over several millennia have bequeathed to us the potato crop with its immense diversity. 

FAO, as the United Nations agency facilitating the observance of the International Day of Potato, is committed to support countries to develop resilient and sustainable potato value chains, Mba said, inviting all interested parties to save the date and celebrate on 30 May in their own way. “No amount of effort is too little,” he said, referring to the amplification effect everyone can have in raising awareness and inspiring action within their own networks.

The one-hour webinar was held in English, followed by a second hour in Spanish.