New RTB project to expand utilization of roots, tubers and bananas in Uganda

A project on expanding utilization and reducing postharvest losses in RTB crops is starting this month in Uganda. Supported by the European Union and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), it will rely on a network of global and local partners.

“It’s worth emphasizing the pioneering role of this project for implementing the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas in Uganda,” said RTB Director Graham Thiele, adding that the East African country is especially well suited for the project: “Uganda has all the RTB crops – banana, cassava, sweetpotato, potato and even yam – and all the CGIAR centers participating in RTB have a presence in Uganda. It is the ideal country to develop and test these innovations, which can later be adapted and applied to other East African countries.”

While the International Potato Center (CIP) is coordinating the project as the RTB lead center, the three other CGIAR partner centers – Bioversity International, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) – will be equal implementing partners and have already contributed to the design of the project, whereas the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development CIRAD, which more recently joined RTB as full partner, has significant research capabilities in the post-harvest area.

The project was originally defined in a planning meeting held in Kampala in 2012. Last year, a workshop called “Making the RTB program work in Uganda” generated more ideas for collaboration. Now is the opportunity to follow up through new research on some of the recommendations made then by RTB partners and other stakeholders.

Sarah Mayanja, an agricultural market specialist at CIP, has been appointed Research Associate for the project. A native of Uganda, she has a wealth of experience in improving value chains in the region using the Participatory Market Chain Approach (PMCA) and strengthening that approach through a focus on gender.

Sarah Mayanja/AWARD

Sarah Mayanja/AWARD

“Sarah’s role will be instrumental for helping to make these research partnerships work, and we are fortunate to be able to build on her strong recognition in the RTB research community in Uganda,” observed Thiele.

Mayanja, who received a fellowship from the African Women in Agriculture Research and Development (AWARD) several years ago, has been working with CIP on different projects promoting vitamin-A-rich orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP).

“Sarah has done an excellent job on the DONATA and Agricultural Innovations Systems (AIS) sweetpotato innovation platform work and I am sure the experience gained will serve her well as she expands to other RTB crops”, commented Jan Low, and leader of the Sweetpotato for Profit and Health Initiative (SPHI) program in Africa.