The Potato Project

Project Update – January 2019

The Potato program has taken another step closer to what we believe is leading to a sustainable commercial project of Potato Seed Producers. We are fortunate to have Gonzalo’s expertise as an agronomist with a specialty in potato production. With his help our confidence of making a success of this project even more likely. Prior to this year’s planting season, the good people of T’iu K’asa asked if we could help them with the purchase of certified seed leading them to having their own good seed next year. We are working with 21 families seeding 0.5 hectares with 16 bags of certificated seed. The project costs will once again be shared with the families who are committed to provide 30% of the total costs estimated at approximately $1000 USD plus their labour and their transportation of the seed from Cochabamba to Vacas. Through a good friend of Gonzalo, Remigio Ancalle, also an agronomist and a pastor of a Christian Church, a prior director of the Peace Corp in Bolivia, Diane Hibino, now coordinator of “Amigos de Bolivia”, has agreed to purchase the seed. We will be helping with fertilizers and build a small pilot potato storage. We are thankful for this partnership to enable this project to go forward.

The potato seed has been purchased, planted, treated and fertilized and is looking from the pictures to be well on its way to a successful crop. We pray for continued good growing weather and a crop this leads to sustainability and another financial resource for these villagers.

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Project Update – May 2018

The Potato program which we previously reported on has certainly progressed with the harvesting of the demonstration plots underway. Potatoes are a stable for these people and a potentially valuable cash crop as well. The goal is to study and develop strategies for controlling a plague named White worm. Five demonstration plots were planted in 5 different villages including Rodeo, Sapilica, Jatun Pampa, Sach’a Sach’a, and T’iu K’asa. These are all villages we have worked with in building new wells.

The harvesting has been completed. One plot was lost due to heavy rain and localized flooding. The other four have been successful and delivered some important data that will now be compiled into a technical report. Several villages beyond those who participated are eager to hear and learn the results so that they may benefit with a more robust harvest. We are hopeful this will give these people even more hope of an improved quality of life using the potatoes as a cash crop. The following provides some pictures of the work completed from planting to harvesting.

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CONTROL of “The White Worm” (Premnotrypes spp.)

IN POTATO CROPS OF THE VACAS MUNICIPALITY,

ARANI PROVINCE IN THE DEPARTMENT OF COCHABAMBA.

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 Background:

For the local farmers of Vacas, the potato represents the only significant commercial crop. As such, the development of improved production methods will lead to improved social conditions and community development. Vacas has traditionally been a good producer of potatoes. However, in recent years, a worrisome spread of a plague known as “White worm” has played havoc on the local crops. Exacerbated with the drought the local farmers have seen their potato crops diminish resulting in both social and economic hardships on many of the families. The control of this nasty pest is complex, compared to other pests, because the greater part of their life cycle takes place inside the soil rather than on the Plant itself.

Without some assistance, this persistence in poorer crops leads families to make difficult decisions to leave the area and migrate to the towns and cities hoping for more economic opportunity.

The Water Project has been very successful in dealing with one very important barrier to the future well-being of these communities and that is access to safe water. The project to date has delivered a safer and sustainable water system to some 216 families which I am sure has raised their hopes for a better future. With that success, these communities have come to us with a request to help with another resource, their cultivation and production of potatoes under attack from this pest the White Worm. Although our prime focus will remain providing help with construction of water wells and associated systems, the project has a significant resource available for this problem, that being Gonzalos who happens to be a potato expert. This is an opportunity for us to further help the development of these communities by combining our efforts and resources with our partner Alcance Bolivia to tackle this nasty grub and find ways to mitigate its nasty impact.

The Challenge: Is it possible to gradually reduce the incidence of white worm in crops of Potatoes of the Vacas municipality, by applying appropriate technological strategies.

The Project Objectives

Develop a local technology package of the white grub control, and then recommend their application in communities. Specific objectives include three strategies:

  1. Deploy a training program on relevant farming practices.
  2. Placement of demonstration plots in five different micro zones that will extract the necessary technical information for development of mitigation procedures.
  3. Dissemination of information related to the impacts of this pest both now and in the future to the broader community, local authorities and Institutions in order to encourage them to join in the campaign.

Program Launch – 2017/18 Planting Season

The project has been successfully launched through the implementation of two specific tasks: conduct training courses, and the placement of the five demonstration plots that will extract the necessary technical information. In each micro zone potatoes will be planted in a demonstration plot of 500 m2, which will be divided into four sub plots of 125 m2 each. Each sub plot will represent a different treatment. The five micro zones selected for their strong environmental differences, are located in the following communities: Rodeo – Plateau zone; Sapilica – Valley zone; Jatun Pampa – Mountain zone; Sach’a Sach’a – Foot of the mountain zone; Cañada Grande – Canyon zone.

The Training Program

In each micro zone, at least two training courses will be run on the different stages of the life cycle of the Potato crop.

Pre-sowing Course includes: potato seed disinfection methods, Soils: features, textures, properties and its preparation, Fertilization: organic and mineral, Selection of seed, Methods of sowing, Field practices.

Post-planting Course includes: Cultural work, Pests and diseases, Harvest, storage and marketing, Field practices.