Improving potato production for increased food security of indigenous communities in Colombia
Funding: CA$2.8 million                                                   Duration: March 2012 to August 2014

Project Number: 106926
The challenge
In Colombia, food security is a national concern, and indigenous communities of Nariño are among the most food insecure in the country. Potato is the staple food crop and main source of family income for the region’s smallholder farms — many of which are headed by women.

One of the biggest threats to potato production is late blight disease, which requires producers to make several applications of fungicides, which costs farmers money and leads to adverse environmental impacts.

For the past 15 years, Universidad Nacional de Colombia (UNC) has worked on the development of new potato cultivars, better suited for post-harvest storage and processing. UNC has made significant progress in developing and collecting new potato clones but these have to be tested for nutritional and processing qualities, as well as yield and resistance to late blight and other diseases. There is also a need among farmers to adopt more environmentally sound agricultural and post-harvest practices, such as applying compost to reduce chemical fertilizer use and using live fences — such as fruit trees — to reduce soil erosion and retain water.

The research

This project, supported by IDRC and DFATD through the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund (CIFSRF), combines the scientific expertise of Colombia and Canada to produce, select, and introduce nutritional, high yielding, and genetically resistant potato cultivars for distribution to the indigenous communities of Nariño.

The research team is also developing and implementing an educational program for smallholder farmers and training Nariño’s indigenous women to become community leaders in their use of improved agricultural, nutritional, and dietary practices. The project is collaborating closely with local and regional authorities to implement the research results, which could be adapted to other parts of Colombia and neighbouring Andean countries.

Data from the project will be transferred to the Colombian Germplasm Bank to increase nutritious food availability in Colombia and provide a strong foundation for the UNC’s future breeding program.

Expected outcomes
  • Three or four highly nutritious potato clones with resistance to late blight disease
  • Agronomic and nutritional characterization of 202 potato genotypes
  • A forecasting system based on disease progress to reduce need for fungicide application
  • Published materials for local communities and authorities: a manual for good agricultural practices; a manual for good dietary practices; an ancestral recipes handbook; a manual for technical management of new potato cultivars; and a native potatoes catalogue
  • Data on the daily diet and traditional culinary practices of the target indigenous communities
  • Guidelines for local policymakers to implement food security policies and empower communities.
Lead researchers

Dr. Teresa Mosquera, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Colombia
Dr. Ajjamada Kushalappa, McGill University, Canada

For more information on this project contact Renaud De Plaen, Senior Program Specialist, Ottawa, Canada ( or Delphine Larrousse, Program Officer, Montevideo, Uruguay (
The Canadian International Food Security Research Fund (CIFSRF) is a program of Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD).

International Development Research Centre
PO Box 8500 Ottawa ON Canada K1G 3H9
Phone +1 613 236 6163 | Fax +1 613 236 7293 |

Visit the project website

Knowledge, innovation, and solutions to improve the lives of people in the developing world
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