The history of the potato has its roots in the Andes Mountains of South America. The tough pre-Columbian farmers first discovered and cultivated the potato some 7,000 years ago and through trial and error, figured out that by using bio-diversity, they could harness the potato as a reliable source of food and nutrition. In 1565, Spanish conqueror Gonzalo Jiminez de Quesada (1499-1579) took only one of the many varieties of potato back to Spain in lieu of the gold he did not find in Peru. Potatoes were soon a standard supply item on the Spanish ships and soon became an important source of food and nutrition across Europe.
Between 1780 and 1841 the Irish population doubled to eight million. This occurred without any significant expansion of industry or reform of agricultural techniques beyond the widespread cultivation of the potato. The 1840’s saw disastrous potato blight, caused by a fungus that attacked the Irish potato. The Potato Famine in Ireland cut the Irish population by half, through both starvation and emigration.
The Peruvians learned long ago that the best way to guarantee the survival of a species of potato was to increase the variety of potatoes planted to help guard against anything that may attack and devastate one particular variety. The mistake made that sparked the Gorta Mór or Great Hunger in Ireland was disregard for the basic laws of nature, which always require species diversification as a form of protection. It’s similar to the strategy used by financial advisers when they speak about the importance of diversification of one’s portfolio to protect against sudden financial catastrophe.
Diversification is a basic law of nature, but too often we don’t see this being respected. You can look to nature for proof that diversity and inclusion are critical. History has shown that diversity is necessary in order to avoid extinction.