Potatoes are important to food security and they are a cash crop in Ethiopia for small-scale farmers, who account for 83% of the total population and hold 95% of agricultural land. It is widely grown in the highland areas and is one of the few fast growing commodities expanding into non-traditional areas.
The International Potato Center (CIP) has partnered with the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) potato breeding program since 1975 with the objective of improving the productivity and profitability of potato through research and innovation in science, technology and capacity strengthening.
The collaboration has, so far, resulted in the release of about 29 CIP-bred varieties with late blight resistance, high yield, and good quality traits. Among those released varieties, ‘Gudene’ is the most widely grown because of its culinary characteristics and late blight resistance.
Over the last five years, researchers from CIP and HARC have selected the 15 best variety candidates based on yield, late blight resistance and organoleptic quality (characteristics such as flavor, appearance, smell, and consistency). Those clones were initially grown from true potato seeds imported from CIP headquarters in Peru.
In 2018, gender dis-aggregated participatory varietal selection (PVS) by farmers was undertaken to determine which of those clones was best suited to local preferences and needs. The 15 clones were planted at HARC along with three local checks (the varieties Dagim, Gudene, and Jalene). Famers were invited to evaluate those potatoes in the flowering stage, at harvest and 10 days after harvest for organoleptic characteristics.
According to CIP Researcher Hirut Getinet, the farmers’ criteria for selection differed according to gender.
At flowering, female farmers selected materials with disease resistance, more stems per plant, thick and strong stems, broader leaves, and those with more abundant foliage, in order of importance.
Male farmers preferred medium maturing materials, more stems per plant, disease resistance, and thick and strong stems. At harvest, the top three preferred selection criteria were the same for both men and women: high tuber yield, medium tuber size and tuber color (preferred by market).