Ethiopia is a landlocked African nation located on the “Horn of East Africa,” bordered by Eritria, The Sudan and Kenya. The population has grown from the first time we visited Ethiopia 48 years ago from 20 million to currently about 100 million. Over 80% of the population are still small farms, trying to feed their families on farms of 5 acres or less. Over 40% of weaning age children are under nourished. Potatoes produce more food per square yard than any other crop they can grow in the highlands (6,000 to 12,000 foot altitudes). The national average of potatoes is about 50 cwt/a. The improved varieties this project helps distribute can yield 300 cwt/a.
The Ethiopian Sustainable Food Project is designed to assist with this challenge. In this project, local farmers are provided with initial disease-resistant, clean seed potatoes from the tissue lab organized in northwestern Ethiopia. This process becomes self-sustaining for the farmers as they increase yields then they can afford to pay for the next year's clean seed potatoes from the tissue lab. Workshops are given by Ethiopian Scientists in the countryside on how to integrate the potato into traditional recipes, build solar dehydrators, build storage facilities, develop on-farm seed tuber storages, how to grow the new varieties etc.
Since 2007 Dr. Charles Higgins has been raising money to help expand the project in conjunction with Ethiopian Scientists and extension workers. The statistical increases in yields have been absolutely fantastic. Charlie and his wife Judy were Peace Corps teachers in Ethiopia from 1969 to 1971.
This potato project has the potential to resolve the cyclical famine disasters that will continue to ravage Ethiopia during periods of drought. Dr. Higgins knowledge of potatoes, his understanding of how to get things done in a unique 3000 year old culture, and his willingness to devote his energy to enlarging and auditing the project by returning annually to Ethiopia at his own expense and time, make this a truly remarkable, worthwhile and effective program worthy of our support.