April 16, 2008

Farming Families Benefit From Peruvian Potato Project

T'ikapapa is a marketing social concept that enables resource- poor farmers from the Andean highlands to sell their distinctly labeled native potato crop in Lima's supermarkets. It has improved the income and livelihood of many farming families in Peru's high Andes. T'ikapapa is an initiative of the International Potato Center's (CIP) Papa Andina Partnership Program and the Innovation and Competitiveness of Peru's Potato Sector (INCOPA) project. Since its implementation in 2004, the project has improved the income and livelihood of 500 farming families in Peru's high Andes. The underlying goal is to link small-scale, resource-poor farmers to expanding urban markets, utilising potato biodiversity to create new market opportunities.

The project brings together farmers' organisations from six different departments (Ayacucho, Apurimac, Cajamarca, Huanuco, Huancavelica and Junin) in the highlands of Peru, Capac-Peru (a potato market chain association), A&L Biodiversidad Alto Andina (a private potato processing company), Wong (Peru's largest supermarket chain), and CIP's INCOPA project. This project is supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

Today, two major supermarket chains in Lima sell specially selected and packed fresh native Peruvian potatoes that are supplied by participating farmer organisations under the T'ikapapa trademark. Formal agreements and contracts have been signed between the processing company and the organised farmer communities to ensure stable prices and a supply of quality raw material. T'ikapapa is a Quechua word that means Flower of Potato.

One of the principal goals of T'ikapapa is to generate a greater knowledge about the existence, benefits, and virtues of Andean native potatoes. These potatoes are the result of the evolution and natural crossbreeding of several varieties of potato. From a long process of domestication that goes back to some eight thousand years, the native potatoes have developed tolerance to the extremely cold weather of the altiplano (grow above 3,500 meters of altitude), also to high solar radiation, as well as to the intermittent droughts.

Nutritional qualities

Almost all varieties are organically cultivated, without agrochemicals, have exquisite flavours, and better nutritional qualities than the improved potatoes. Native potatoes have a high content of key amino-acids and antioxidants. They are also a very important source of vitamin C and pro-vitamin A, as well as many minerals, such as potassium, calcium, iron and zinc.

In addition to generating a better knowledge of the native potatoes, T'ikapapa plays a social role by linking small farmers of the High-Andes with new urban markets, and helping them to add value to their products. This way, the growers, usually extremely poor, increase their profits. At the same time, local biodiversity is preserved; responsible businesses are promoted and developed; and the dame ideas can be spread to other areas over the Andes.

It is estimated that Peruvian farmers culivate some 2,700 varieties of native potatoes. Every one of them differs in shape, size, colour, and flavour. The vast majority of consumers only know a few of them. Under the name T'ikapapa, thirty varieties are currently cultivated and marketed by 500 very poor Andean community families of the Peruvian Central Andes. The potatoes are packed in Lima and sold in one kilogram bags.

The T'ikapapa concept was developed through a participatory methodology that linked research with development through the application of the Participatory Market-Chains Approach (PMCA) which made the researchers get closer to the users, involving all the participants in generating innovations that improved the competitiveness of the potato. The PMCA had in mind all of the following elements:

i) agro-ecological: that takes advantage of the biodiversity and the areas of production so that the small growers can promote their products with attractive characteristics to the consumers;

ii) economic: the development of market niches in which the growers have developed and/or can develop comparative advantages;

Farmers in the High Andes grow many varieties of potatoes. Here they harvest a crop showing wide differences in shape, colour and taste.

iii) social: the use of local resources and also the promotion of local micro-enterprises.

These results have been possible due to strategic partnership with the following participants:

Producers: very poor farmers of the Andes, who through generations have preserved and cultivated native varieties of potato for their own use and who now have market for higher valued product. This partnership secures a quality product that is fit for the market.

Private enterprise: it secures an optimal level of presentation which takes care of quality (selection, classification, cleaning, packing, differentiation of brand name) and is articulated with the small producers through contracts to supply the best products.

Supermarkets: main Lima supermarket chains are supplied with new varieties of potato that have very good acceptance among the consumers. Furthermore, this infrastructure is used for the active promotion of the native potatoes among the consumers, people who come from varied socioeconomic strata and who have not heard of the product before.

Public and private participant platform: (Capac Peru), this is a sort of consensus entity that links the participants of the chain, and that also develops services to implement quality criteria, which is important to guarantee the sustainable management of the product.

For further information, contact Miguel Ordinola, General Coordinator of INCOPA Project International Potato Center, Box 1558, Lima 12 Peru. Tel: +51-1-349-6017; fax: +51-1-3175326; E-mail: Cip- [email protected]; web site: papandina.cip.cgiar.org

T'ikapapa potatoes on sale in a Lima supermarket.

A packet of potatoes under the T'ikapapa trademark