2016 marked a successful if somewhat challenging year for RTB. We submitted the proposal for Phase II of the program, which received a grade of ‘excellent’ by reviewers, and were officially approved by the CGIAR System Council to commence the phase in January 2017. Most notably, research in this next cycle includes enhanced systems research and an expanded emphasis on scaling. Achieving our ambitious targets for impact in Phase II means focusing on the most promising technologies and innovations, and combining these with the approaches that can take them to scale.
Three International Potato Center (CIP) scientists were awarded the World Food Prize for their work to develop and bring to scale biofortified, nutritious orange-fleshed sweetpotato. We are proud to say that much of this work is an integral part of our research program. Additionally, two of RTB’s participating centers, CIP and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), were jointly awarded the Al-Sumait Prize for African Development for their efforts in reducing poverty and improving food security.
In 2016 we concluded Phase I of RTB, so it’s timely to take stock of some of our headline achievements.
We engaged strategic new partners. The Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD) came on board early in the phase as a full RTB program participant and leads the cluster on cassava processing with unique skills such as drying technology, and is making important contributions to genomic research. Wageningen University & Research took on leadership of a research cluster in 2016 and strengthened our focus on scaling. Other significant upstream partnerships were with Royal Holloway University of London with path-breaking work on metabolomics; Natural Resources Institute for postharvest evaluation and sensory analysis; and Cornell University for next generation breeding and gender. Novel downstream partnerships included National Agricultural Research Organisation of Uganda for postharvest innovation and National Root Crops Research Institute of Nigeria for cassava seed system development.
We built a strong cross-crop and cross-center knowledge base through internal competitive grants (“complementary funded projects”). This included proof-of-concept studies which identified genomic regions linked to important complex traits such as virus resistance, dry matter and carotenoid content in cassava, parthenocarpy and sterility in banana, and heat tolerance and micronutrient composition in potato. This will underpin work to accelerate genetic gains in Phase II. And four tools were developed to understand and intervene in seed systems which will be applied to enhance ongoing seed system interventions.
We made strong progress on gender research by developing and applying gender-responsive guidelines and tools for participatory varietal selection, assessment of end-user preferences, integrated pest management, and participatory value chain analysis. Fifteen RTB cases studies with GENNOVATE enhanced knowledge of changing norms and agency for gender equity, with one key finding around the role of women as gatekeepers of integrated agri-food systems.
We take this opportunity to thank all our partners and donors for their incredible contributions to our work in Phase I, and look forward to an exciting journey together in Phase II.
BARBARA H. WELLS
CIP Director General
RTB Program Director