Top crop: Resilient Irish spuds are helping to feed Ethiopians

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Top crop: Resilient Irish spuds are helping to feed Ethiopians


Growth industry: Concern-supported Ethiopian farmer Ahimed Ali Mahamed, showing off his crop. Photo: Jennifer Nolan / Concern Worldwide
Growth industry: Concern-supported Ethiopian farmer Ahimed Ali Mahamed, showing off his crop. Photo: Jennifer Nolan / Concern Worldwide

The humble Irish spud is being credited with staving off a potential food crisis in one of the poorest and most remote regions of Ethiopia.

Although the famine there – which sparked Bob Geldof’s Live Aid movement – was more than 30 years ago, the north-east African country continues to struggle with food security problems, including a devastating drought last year in the highland region, affecting more than 10 million people.

But thanks to the introduction of Irish potatoes to the drought-prone northern highland region of South Wollo in 2007, there has been a massive decline in food shortages as well as improvements to the local economy, according to the Irish aid agency Concern.

It credits the resilience of the Irish potato in being able to withstand severe cold, moisture and altitude, which were issues leading to crop failures in the highland region, situated 3,000 metres above sea level – three times the altitude of Ireland’s highest mountain, Carrauntoohil in Co Kerry.

“It is very challenging to increase the yield of crops in high altitudes. Very little can thrive at 3,000 metres, but the Irish potato has proved to be a rare exception,” said Concern’s Ethiopia country director Eileen Morrow.

“When I first visited our projects there in 2016 during a major drought in the country, it was a real surprise to see potatoes growing so successfully at an altitude that had me struggling to breathe,” she said.

Ethiopians are now consuming potatoes as part of their diets, with fried potatoes, and carrot and potato stew – like Irish stew without the lamb – becoming increasingly popular, she said.

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Irish Independent


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