Merida/Minneapolis, January 5, 2019 (tatuytv.org, venezuelanalysis.com) - The EcoFestival of the Native Potato Seed, is an annual event, held for the last seven years in the Venezuelan Andean community of Gavidia, Merida State. This event exhibits the many accomplishments made in research, production and organization around the native potato seeds and other Andean tubers, demonstrating the great social and productive potential of these products while inciting interest and increased participation despite having to challenge the deeply rooted stigmas designed to facilitate the cultural imposition of foreign seeds.
The economic crisis that has accompanied falling oil prices, as well as asphyxiating US and Canadian economic sanctions, have severely limited Venezuela's capacity to import many food items which the country has grown to depend on over the last century since oil has become the number one product for exportation. The response to this situation, by the majority of Chavismo, has been a push to increase national agricultural production. However, the agricultural industry has also been affected by a lowered capacity for imports, as most production still depends on the importation of foreign commercial seeds and other agricultural inputs. Often, the small amount of these products that the government does manage to import makes its way into illegal smuggling networks where they are sold at prices that most farmers cannot afford, further limiting the national capacity for production as well as driving up food prices.
The clear challenge in Venezuela, apart from the struggle against networks of smuggling and price speculation, is to establish a different agricultural model, which does not depend on foreign imports. The Andean community of Gavidia has already taken steps forward with their organization around the native potato seed.
Research has shown that the conservation and reproduction of the native potato has an important role in soil conservation, while these potatoes also possess an extended storage life, as well as high nutritional content for human and animal consumption, and offer many possibilities for production of derivatives. There remain tremendous challenges and years of work ahead before these native varieties can substitute imported seeds, but the Andean communities have demonstrated that they have the drive and patience to push forward what could be a fundamental contribution to national food sovereignty.