Blog Stories from the field: A Native Potato Champion in Bolivia

Potatoes are one of Bolivia’s major food crops, and native crops are important for smallholder farmers. Learn how Renato Choque produces quality native potato seed in the heights of Colomi.

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Potatoes are grown by an estimated 200,000 smallholders who rely on native potato varieties. However, the production of certified seed potato at the national level does not satisfy the annual seed demand for commercial production. This is because there are formal entities and associations registered in the National Institute of Agricultural and Forestry Innovation (INIAF, its acronym in Spanish) that are dedicated to the production of certified seed of a limited number of commercial varieties that fall short of smallholder demand.

In recent years, several seed groups have emerged from the Municipality of Colomi (Cochabamba, Bolivia), who begin to offer certified seed of native potato varieties. These groups were supported by the PROINPA Foundation within the framework of the project "IMPROVING SEED SYSTEMS FOR SMALLHOLDER FARMERS’ FOOD SECURITY" [1] funded by the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC). Renato Choque stands out among these groups.,. Over several years, Renato developed skills and abilities for the production of seeds of native potatoes. He received technical training from the project team and adopted good agricultural practices for the production of seeds of five varieties of native potatos known as Pinta boca, Candelero, Yana Qoyllu, Puca Qoyllu, Huaycha Figure 1 below.

Fig 1. Potato varieties

Renato’s story

Renato Choque is the son of two farmers who are guardians of potato diversity, he is a young farmer and a member of the LINDE native potato seed producers' association, who with great dynamism gradually became one of the best producers of seed of local varieties. due to his enthusiasm he leads the group of seed producers from Linde (Colomi) who work with PROINPA.

Farmer Renato Choque surveys a native potato seed plot in Colomi.

The first steps towards becoming seed producers began with injection  of  high-quality (pre-basic) seed of four varieties to refresh the local seed production. As the years went by, Renato's group multiplied three categories of native potato seed (basic I, basic II and basic III) following the formal seed production regulations. In this process, Renato and his associates received training and strengthening of their skills and means for the production of quality seed. However, Renato was the one who most appreciated and took advantage of the new knowledge acquired: he gradually grew as a seed farmer, expanding his native potato plots in areas or places free of diseases.

Renato currently offers more than 400 quintals of certified seed of five varieties of native potatoes per year. He also trains farmers on his farm where over 70 farmers from the region have benefitted from practical lessons on native potato seed production including the management of pests and diseases and the adoption of good agricultural practices. As a result of this, farmers have not only improved access to quality and diverse seeds but have also improved their incomes and food security as well.

Video


[1] IMPROVING SEED SYSTEMS FOR SMALLHOLDER FARMERS’ FOOD SECURITY Project is led globally by the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT with funds from the Swiss Cooperation and executed in Bolivia, in the municipality of Colomi, by the PROINPA Foundation in the years 2014-2021.