Improving Potato Production for Increased Food Security of Indigenous Communities in Colombia
“Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” (http://www.unicef.org.co/0-nutricion.htm retrieved 13.08.2011).
Indigenous communities in Nariño, Southwestern Colombia, are impoverished and their food security is precarious. Potato is a staple food crop in the region and the main source of family income in many instances. It has been determined that genetic improvements of potatoes for higher yield, nutrition and resistance to late blight disease is the best option to enhance the economic stability and daily diet of theses indigenous communities. In view of this, the Universidad Nacional de Colombia has initiated a genetic breeding program in collaboration with Nariño indigenous communities through Fundelsurco, an indigenous nongovernmental organization.
This project (Ca$2.8 million) combines the expertise of Universidad Nacional de Colombia and Fundación Pro Delsurco Nariño with advances in research made by The Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning (McGill University), in collaboration with the University of New Brunswick and the International Potato Center. Together, these institutions are attempting to enhance overall food security in Nariño through a multifaceted approach which attempts to address the main concerns present in the community. This is done by introducing new methodologies for plant breeding, evaluating nutritional and functional foods, selecting for potato disease resistance based on novel OMICs technologies, educating the community in good agricultural practices and empowering women as central agents of food security in their families.
Such a broad-scoped project is made possible by grouping needs and objectives under six distinct research themes: 1. Nutrition and health; 2. Potato breeding; 3. Nutrients and functional foods in potato; 4. Resistance to late blight of potato; 5. Educational programs; 6. Family roles and gender. Each theme is treated by a specialized team with clear objectives linked to the needs of the community. The SAN-Nariño Project thus brings researchers and producers together under these common banners in order to address the issue of food security in the face of uncertain economic and climatic conditions.
Funding agency: This project is part of the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund (CIFSRF), a CA$62 million program that funds research program that aim to solve immediate and concrete food security challenges in the developing world. For more information on this fund please visit: www.idrc.ca/cifsrf (RDePlaen [at] idrc.ca).