The Food Security Journal has just published the Bellagio Conference Roadmap, an action plan developed last year for fighting the most destructive cassava diseases: cassava mosaic disease, which is now found across Africa, and the cassava brown streak disease, which is spreading quickly across central and western Africa, causing significant crop losses.

“We went from a declaration of war to a plan of action,” says Claude Fauquet, Director of the Global Cassava Partnership for the 21st Century (GCP21) and the instigator of an expert meeting that took place in Bellagio, Italy, in May 2013. Approximately forty researchers with varied backgrounds – from agronomy to social sciences – gathered there to define the areas of action needed to eradicate the diseases that are currently devastating one of the most important crops for developing countries.

“Cassava has proven to be a crop that can tolerate poor soils and adapt to extreme climatic conditions such as drought. It now feeds around 700 million people worldwide, mostly in Africa but also in Latin America and Asia,” said Fauquet. He added that cassava is also in increasing demand in the food industry because of its starch content.

GCP21 is a multi-stakeholder organization created in 2003 to identify synergies that can bolster production and consumption of cassava in the world, with a goal of tapping the crop’s potential for improving food security and contributing to development in the world’s poorest areas. It has become an important platform for cassava research and development of the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) through an alliance that was formalized in 2013.

“We supported the publication of the Bellagio Roadmap in ‘open access’, which means it’s freely available, to ensure its wider dissemination and encourage additional partnerships,” said RTB Director Graham Thiele. “The efforts on cassava will only bear fruit globally if they are properly articulated and if funding is used wisely. We believe that the Bellagio Roadmap will contribute to coordinating these efforts.”

Experts from RTB, IRD, CIRAD, BecA-ILRICORAF, ASARECA and AATF, as well as representatives from 13 African countries, will soon meet to agree on the first steps to implement the plan. The meeting, which will convene on the island of La Reunion from 10-13 June 2014, will focus on the monitoring and diagnosis of cassava diseases, as well as on the transfer of planting materials between countries.