Livingstone’s Colonial Potatoes in the 21st Century

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.

En. Marc discussing local, indigenous potatoes with a farmer

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.

Matre d’ Donatien

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:

Omer’s taxonomy of local (indigenous) potatoes

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.

Native potatoes, from NAS ‘Lost Crops’

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.


About dianabuja

With a group of BaTwa (pygmy) women potters, with whom we've worked to enhance production and sales of their wonderful pots - fantastic for cooking and serving. To see the 2 blogs on this work enter 'batwa pots' into the search engine located just above this picture. Blog entries throughout this site are about Africa, as well as about the Middle East and life in general - reflecting over 35 years of work and research in Africa and the Middle East – Come and join me!
This entry was posted in Africa-Central, Agriculture, Colonialism, Explorers & exploration, Indigenous crops & medicinal plants. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Livingstone’s Colonial Potatoes in the 21st Century

  1. Pingback: Contract Farming in the Village and Starting a Producer Cooperative « Dianabuja's Blog

  2. Pingback: INUMPU – Burundi’s Indigenous Potatoes & A Recipe « Dianabuja's Blog

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