A German immigrant is credited with introducing the potato to Ethiopia in 1858. Over the following decades, farmers in Ethiopia's highlands began cultivating the new tuber - known as denech - as an "insurance policy" against cereal crop failures.
Among African countries, Ethiopia has possibly the greatest potential for potato production: 70 percent of its arable land - mainly in highland areas above 1 500 m - is believed suitable for potato. Since the highlands are also home to almost 90 percent of Ethiopia's population, the potato could play a key role in ensuring national food security.
At present, potatoes are still widely regarded as a secondary crop, and annual per capita consumption is estimated at just 5 kg. However, potato growing is expanding steadily: FAO estimates that production has increased from 280 000 tonnes in 1993 to around 525 000 tonnes in 2007.