Underground assets: potato biodiversity to improve the livelihoods of the poor uri icon

abstract

  • Vulnerability and limited assets both constrain the options of poor people, especially small holder farmers. But the poor often also possess a range of potentially valuable natural, physical, financial, human and social-capital assets. Development interventions requiring high levels of assets that poor people do not have are unlikely to reduce poverty, but those which build on what they do have can build assets and so improve their options. Producing and processing potatoes are important livelihood strategies for millions of the poor, A careful understanding of the context and strategies of the poor can help indicate how potatoes can also be used to reduce poverty. This paper employs the Sustainable Livelihoods Framework to examine these issues, using the Papa Andina case in the Andes as an example of new approaches to use potato diversity to improve livelihoods in a transforming development context. The Papa Andina regional initiative, together with its national partners, helps Andean farmers build new livelihood strategies using the genetic diversity of potatoes, local knowledge and social capital - assets that are often undervalued. But this does not occur in a vacuum; a range of policies and institutions are required, including, for example, collective action among farmers and interaction with outsiders such as market agents and agricultural service providers in order to foster market chain innovation and to access and build market opportunities. Accurate understanding of the changing context of producers, processors and consumers can help ensure that potatoes play a role in improving the welfare of the poor.

publication date

  • 2009
  • 2009
  • 2009