When conducting a baseline survey upcountry in 1998 with colleagues from the Ministry of Agriculture and the National research Institute, we came upon a smallholder who described to us a local potato that was especially valued for its ability to survive during years of low rain and/or unrest due to rebel attacks.
This indigenous potato is under-studied both by the Ministry of Agriculture as well as the National Research Centre – as it is also under-studied by international research centers.
I had forgotten about this event until last week, when coming across several descriptions of the crop in Dr. Livingston’s 19th Century journals of exploration in central Africa, which I wrote about in this entry
Then, over the weekend, I thought about the 1998 assessment and smallholder, pictured above. And I began to ask around both in the village and at the Hotel.
Donatien, Maitre d‘, said that yes, when he was a child, upcountry, there were local (indigenous) potatoes but there are not so many now, because markets and donors had favored ‘Irish potatoes‘. He couldn’t remember the name of the indigenous, but said that they were very good, and were usually eaten with beans.
But he became interested in the topic, and today said that he talked to his wife abut indigenous potatoes, and she was going upcountry this weekend and would find out more about them.
I also asked Omer, who has worked with us since 1998 and also has worked as a chef in the Hotel. He said yes, there are very good local potatoes where he comes from in Gitega Provence, and that his wife still grows them and sometimes sends some down for him and their family who live here.
He said there are three kinds, and set out to describe them, as he wrote a little taxonomy:
He’s going to have his wife send down some planting materials so that we can try them here; if they can grow at this lower altitude they would be a very nice addition to the contract farming project, and to add to the Hotel’s menu.
An excellent example of what is happening to indigenous crops that – although being well adapted to local conditions – are being ‘lost’. More in another blog.
Read more about native potatoes here.
- How to Bake a Potato: Three Easy Methods (thekitchn.com)
- Do Think of Potatoes as Veggies or a Starch? (fitsugar.com)