Report on WPC Round Table at 10th APA

The stated mission of WPC Inc, as articulated in the recently adopted strategic plan, is that: “The World Potato Congress creates the value chain network to lead sustainable growth and development of the potato to meet increased global use and demand.”

To assist the directors realize this mission we have embarked on a multifaceted “Roadmap” which we anticipate will guide our actions in the coming years. A significant component of the roadmap is a focus on Africa and in particular a role we can play in development of the industry in Ethiopia and, by extension, other African countries where opportunities may exist.

The Board authorized an initial budget of $20,000 CAD to fund an Ethiopian Initiative.

This report summarizes our activities to date.

Given that WPC wishes to act as a catalyst to develop the potato system in the developing world and strengthen its collaboration with those countries, it was determined the most effective vehicle to initiate this would be a roundtable at the triennial African Potato Association Conference (APA) held at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in October 2016.

The aim of the roundtable was to bring together the various stakeholders from the private sector  already active or interested in the region’s potato industry. It was felt a roundtable would provide an opportunity to learn from each other’s activities and appreciate expectations and immediate needs. Results from this round table could lead to long term networking support and ultimately assist in developing a strategic plan to set up potato value chains for the East Africa region, a benefit for all stakeholders involved.

This experience could then be used to develop a WPC tool box, for the global potato sector, which would be finalised and presented at the next WPC congress in May 2018 in Cusco Peru.

VP Romain Cools and Director Peter VanderZaag took leadership with the full support of WPC President David Thomposn and the Board of Directors. With cooperation of the APA organizers  the roundtable was set up and promoted through our website and subscriber newsletter

Our delegation consisted up of President Thompson, VP Romain Cools, Director Peter VanderZaag and GM John Coady. The roundtable was held during the afternoon of the second day of the conference and was preceded by promotional announcements from the main podium.

 Evaluation of the Round Table Initiative:

  1. The WPC presentation and round table (October 11 – 12)

Interest in the round table was greater than we had anticipated. Seventy participants took part.  The names, country of origin and email address of the participants were gathered by the general manager to facilitate distribution of a report and the presentations at a later date.

It was explained at the outset that the goals of the round table were to listen to practical experiences, learn from constraints and collect suggestions. The outcomes would then be formatted into a number of tools to be added to a “WPC tool box for potato projects in the developing world”

  • After a short introduction by Peter VanderZaag on behalf of WPC, 5 presentations were given, each of them introduced by the chairman of the round table Romain Cools.
    1. The VITA project of Ireland spread over 6 countries in Eastern Africa, by Solomon Kebede ;
    2. Jan Van der Haar, Solagrow – the experience of a Dutch farming initiative in Ethiopia ;
    3. Micheal Devries, Solynta, a hybrid breeding scheme with diploid potatoes working in Congo ;
    4. Monica Parker, CIP, on the challenges and constraints of public/private partnerships in Kenya
    5. Ayse Suka-Helmhout, Nijmegen school of management, on the assessment of the effectiveness of networks in the value chain.
  • After each presentation there were so many spontaneous reactions, questions and answers that time did not permit the participants to go deep enough into the stated goals.
  • It was therefore agreed to continue the round table the next day. Subsequently a group of +/- 20 persons gathered to continue the discussion. New interesting experiences were shared by participants from Kenya, South-Africa, Uganda and Ethiopia. Also Prof. A. Haverkort contributed to the dialogue.
  • The round table ended with a commitment to forward a report consisting of slides of the presentations.
  1. Conclusions:
    1. Not only were we able to explain our program during the plenary session of the 2nd day and one of the technical sessions, the high number of participants at the round table sessions on the 2nd and 3rd day, and the interaction after presentations have resulted in a broad database of suggestions which can lead to a tool box for developing potato value chains.
    2. The exercise will result in an important effort to follow up this initiative.

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