Ethiopia is a landlocked African nation located on the “Horn of East Africa,” bordered by Eritria, The Sudan and Kenya. In addition to some of the most picturesque countryside scenes in all the world, it is currently slated to be one of the world’s most populated countries within the next half century. Many people live in poverty, the healthcare system is strained by the large population, and the attainment of sustainable food resources is a difficult challenge to most citizens.
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 a tissue lab organized in northwestern Ethiopia. Locals are shown how to construct potato drying racks and storage facilities from readily acquired materials. This process becomes self-sustaining for the farmers as they trade part of their potato crop every three years for clean seed potatoes developed by the tissue lab. The potato payments are used to start additional potato projects within the highland country. Workshops are given in the countryside on how to integrate the potato into traditional recipes, build solar dehydrators, build storage facilities, develop on-farm tuber potato plants, etc.
Since 2007 Dr. Charles Higgins has been raising money to travel to Ethiopia to work with up to five demonstration sites at a time to establish a sustainable, disease free potato crop. In conjunction with Ethiopian agricultural engineers and nutritionists, all the the demonstration sites have been successful in improving crop yield, constructing potato storage facilities, and implementing solar dehydration for potatoes and other crops for longer term storage and usage. The statistical increases have been absolutely fantastic.
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The potato can be dried and preserved following the harvest; the local grain (teff) cannot. Therefore, 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.