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Boosting the bottom line through tech for High Quality Cassava Peel production

By 2100, the African continent is projected to see some of the highest GDP growth in the world, a trend closely coupled with increased demand on livestock production. 

To feed this growing industry, however, stress on staple crops like maize and corn is increasing, creating competition between grain for human food and animal feed. In response to this challenge, CGIAR scientists have developed a livestock feed supplement that is relieving the stress on these staple crops by using an abundant agricultural waste product ­– cassava peels.

From waste to wealth

Over the last five years, scientists from International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) with support from the CGIAR Research Program on Root Tubers and Bananas (RTB) have developed a processing method that transforms wet cassava peels into high quality, safe, and hygienic animal feed ingredients, known as High Quality Cassava Peel mash (HQCP). This new component of the cassava value chain has the potential to become a USD2 billion a year industry on the continent and employ 100,000 more people, 80% of whom it is estimated will be women.

Normal cassava production and processing produces waste; 50 million tonnes per year of peels, stumps, undersized, or damaged cassava are either burned or left to rot in piles, both of which pollute the air, soil, and groundwater.

“Cassava peel heaps have been shown to yield significant quantities of bioethanol. Scaling the transformation and use of cassava peel into animal feed ingredients instead of letting them rot in heaps will reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” says Iheanacho Okike of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) who leads the Cassava Peel Transformation project.

In recognition of the success of the technology and its potential to benefit the environment, economy, and livelihoods, RTB awarded the project a grant through the RTB Scaling Fund. The funding, in addition, to support from RTB’s Flagship Project 5 on ‘Improved livelihoods at scale’, has helped the project to identify bottlenecks and corresponding solutions to scale the technology.

What was once a nuisance and a greenhouse gas emitter has become a potential additional income source for three million cassava producers. Some systematic roadblocks have constrained the industry from growing to its full potential, like widespread geographic distribution, limited knowledge of feed nutrition, and communication.

As part of scaling efforts, which also include training and access to credit, three ICT solutions have been developed and deployed by the project to help overcome these challenges and grow the industry.

Connecting the dots

Investors and entrepreneurs are excited about the potential of this commodity growing in value, however, finding the right cassava peel products and processing plant has been a risky. “Investors can take advantage of the Cassava Peel Tracker to locate factories that are central and in close proximity to clusters of cassava processing centers” explains Okike.

IITA scientists developed the Cassava Seed Tracker® an app that facilitates the identification and tracking of cassava planting materials by varieties. In collaboration with the project, that app was modified to make identifying sources of cassava peels and cassava peel products a safer bet. The app can show users not only where cassava processing centers are, but also the volumes of fresh peels generated daily at each location. The Cassava Peel Tracker app was developed and launched in November 2018 and has already geo-referenced more than 25% of the 5000 cassava processing centers in Nigeria. This information improves overall efficiency and profitability by supporting decision making on the optimal facilities to work with based on location and production.

Creating Communities of Practice

Additionally, the project is supporting the quickly growing community of peel production entrepreneurs and investors. The Cassava Peel First Movers group, a WhatsApp-based Community of Practice, now has over 180 active members. Members exchange information on trainings, technical aspects of peel production, and discuss economic information such as the costs of raw materials and fluctuations in market prices

Calculating feed recipe rations – there’s an app for that too

“It is no surprise that HQCP is getting into both the livestock and fish feed industries. HQCP inclusion in compound feed can only grow!” exclaims Okike.

Animal feedmillers have been incorporating the high-quality cassava peel mash into their recipes for both livestock and fish feed faster than initially anticipated. By the end of 2018, almost 800 new recipes included a ration of cassava peel mash, and with the help of a new app called FeedCalculator®, there’s only room for more. The project has deployed another app designed to help feedmillers and farmers formulate least cost, nutritionally-balanced rations for animal feed that incorporate the HQCP.

Thanks to its high nutritional content, Okike says “HQCP is relieving the stranglehold of maize on the feed industry by producing [a] cheaper source of excellent quality energy.”

High potential for HQCP

This new private sector-driven industry conservatively valued at USD450 million was born from a waste product and is now benefitting cassava producers, processors, entrepreneurs and consumers – with the potential to create 100,000 new jobs. By looking critically at the value chain and embracing ICTs to connect different groups, improve communication, share knowledge, and provide advice, the project is moving towards its goals. It is hoped that the success of using cassava peels as quality livestock feed will inspire other crop industries in the agricultural sector to think differently about their byproducts and investigate alternative uses for waste.

Scaling Triple S through collaborating with Damongo Agricultural College, Ghana

In July 2018 Issahaq Suleman, CIP’s Triple S scaling champion in Ghana, paid a visit to Damongo Agricultural College in the West Gonja district of Northern Ghana, with the goal of advocating for practical training on farming improved varieties of orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP). He also wanted to introduce the college to the use of Triple S technology, to conserve roots and generate quality planting material after a long dry season such as that experienced in Northern Ghana. Damongo Agricultural College is one of the five colleges in the country that train agricultural extension agents. It offers both certificate and diploma courses and currently has 224 students who undergo training over a maximum period of two years.  One of the goals of the Triple S scaling project in Ghana, funded by both the RTB scaling fund and the African Development Bank through the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) project, is to increase the number of farmers aware of the technology through influencing the inclusion of the technology in the curriculum of institutions that train agricultural extension agents (AEA). AEAs are government agents who work with farmers to continuously train farmers on good agricultural practice and new technologies.

During Suleman’s visit, he met with the acting principal of the college at the time, Mohamed Adam, and explained the advantages of OFSP for food and nutrition security, the availability of improved varieties released by the national research institution, CSIR – CRI (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research – Crops Research Institute) as well as improved farming technologies aimed at improving yield. Triple S is one such technology as it allows farmers to have quality planting material in sufficient quantities, in time for the planting season. Traditionally, roots are conserved by burying them in the field which exposes them to weevils, which in turn affects the quality of the planting material generated.

Damongo Agricultural College was receptive to the technology and with a go-ahead from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), underwent an initial training. There were 126 students and eight tutors involved in the trainings that were delivered through printed material, instructional videos and hands-on demonstration of the innovation. After the training, the students cultivated an acre of OFSP on the College premises in August 2018.

In November, the roots were ready for harvesting and sorting for storage. CIP then organized training on how to harvest, select and store OFSP in the sand (in a pit or a basin).

Storage pit with a capacity to hold 500 kilos, Damongo Agricultural College                              Photo Credit: I. Suleman

Recently, participants at the annual Triple S review and planning meeting, held in Tamale from the 22nd – 24th of January, visited the institution as part of a learning journey[1] to engage with the students and tutors on their experience with the Triple S technology.

“The course was very interesting and will have a good impact, because we watched videos, clearly describing the technologies, followed by practical training. This was the first time we were shown a video, which helped us to quickly understand the innovation and apply it practically. We learned a lot about the nutritional benefits of OFSP and how one can store roots up to 4 months by sorting out the damaged roots, arranging the good roots in a sandpit or basin and monitoring them on a monthly basis” said Yakubu Muzanin, a second-year student at the College.

Learning journey participants, students and tutors meet at the Damongo Agricultural College
Photo Credit: Asfaw F

Richard Dantey, a tutor at the College, told the visiting group that they have developed courses which address OFSP and the Triple-S innovation namely: roots and tubers crops, post-harvest and storage technology, farm-led nutrition, and practical cookery.

The students now have a full understanding of the technology and have identified income generating opportunities they can engage in such as producing vines for sale to farmers and roots for sale to processing plants. Interestingly, the male students are more inclined to the production of vines while the female students favor roots production. Roots harvested from the trial plot were consumed by the students as part of their meals at the college.

Richard Annobil, Director of Human Resources and Capacity Building at MoFA, who was also one of the participants in the learning journey; has become an advocate for OFSP and Triple-S at the national level. He proposes adaptation and dissemination of course materials to the three other agricultural colleges, as well as five farming training institutes in Ghana. This will help in the sustainable integration of OFSP and Triple-S into the national education system. He promised to support the International Potato Center (CIP) and Damongo Agricultural College participate in the national revision of curricula for agricultural training, an exercise scheduled for July 2019, so that they would make the case for incorporation of the Triple S technology to other stakeholders.

Issahaq Suleman from CIP and Richard Dantey, a tutor from Damongo Agricultural College, inspect seed beds planted using material germinated using the Triple S technology. Photo: T Van Mourik/CIP

Getting OFSP and Triple-S into the national agricultural training curricula is key to encouraging self-scaling of this technology without additional financial support from projects. Another key factor for success is getting these innovations into the annual workplans of the regional and district levels development plans, so that budget is available for dissemination in the future.

“With such a strong partnership and clear benefits of OFSP and the Triple S innovation for food and nutrition security, as well as business opportunities in Ghana, the sky is the limit!”  concluded Richard Annobil (MoFA).

The blog is written and photos provided by Rosemary Kihiu, with contributions from Issahaq Suleman and Thomas van Mourik (CIP Ghana). 

[1] A Learning Route (LR) is a planned journey with learning objectives that are designed based on i) the knowledge needs of development practitioners that are faced with problems associated with rural poverty and, ii) the identification of relevant experiences in which local stakeholders have tackled similar challenges in innovative ways, with successful results and accumulated knowledge which is potentially useful to others. The Route allows for the experiential encounter between travelers and hosts, both having mutually useful experiences and knowledge. For more information on LRs, visit

MRC Training in December 2018, Photo credit: Camille Joy Enalbes

Capturing stories of women through the Most Significant Change Approach

Story-telling is a powerful communication tool as it is useful to captivate people’s interest. The Food Resilience through Root and Tuber Crops in Upland and Coastal Communities of the Asia Pacific (FoodSTART+) uses the Most Significant Change (MSC) approach to gauge the impact of the Farmers Business School (FBS) interventions and showcase the outcomes brought to the target beneficiaries of its partner International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) investment projects such as the Fisheries, Coastal Resources, and Livelihood (FishCORAL) Project and the Integrated Natural Resources and Environmental Management Project (INREMP) in the Philippines.

MSC is a participatory monitoring and evaluation tool that allows community members to tell the story of what they value as a significant change in their personal lives that was brought about by a project.

As a starting activity for this collaboration, FoodSTART+ organized a training workshop on the MSC approach for nine members of its team and partners from FishCORAL and INREMP on 25-26 September 2018 in Tagbilaran, Bohol in the Philippines. The training aimed to equip the participants on using the approach to evaluate the FBS through stories and become trainers themselves.

Willy Pradel, an agricultural economist from the CIP Headquarters in Lima, Peru and an expert in the approach, served as the resource person. Following the theoretical part, the group had firsthand experience on story collection with the involvement of the FBS participants in Lundag Eskaya Tribe Multipurpose Cooperative (LETMULCO) in Pilar, Bohol, which is one of INREMP’s project sites. By conversing with the cooperative members, training participants identified the various changes that occurred upon the implementation of the FBS – mostly increased knowledge of food processing, product development, and business and marketing skills.

In December 2018, a new batch of INREMP staff was trained on MSC in Bohol. The training involved story collection in three FBS sites, the San Miguel Association Resource Team (SMART), the San Carlos Association for Rehabilitation of Environmental Denudation (SCARED), and the Concepcion Livelihood and Environmental Association Project (CLEAP).

One story came from Elizabeth Timblaco, Manager of Camoteville, SCARED Group Brgy., San Carlos, Danao, Bohol. The SCARED Group chose sweetpotato as the main crop for processing in the FBS as it is the most common crop planted by farmers in their area.

MSC Training in December 2018, Photo credit: Camille Joy Enalbes

Elizabeth said that during her involvement in the FBS, she learned that aside from the simply steamed sweetpotato and camote cue (caramelized sweetpotato snack), they can process it into other delicacies that will generate higher income. She learned the basics on how to process and properly package the products from the various trainings conducted. The SCARED Group was also able to share the knowledge and learnings to their neighbors which strengthen their bond.

She shared that a significant difference made by the FBS in their community is that people are now being more productive by participating in the processing of products. Before the FBS, there were a lot of bystanders in their area playing card games.

“I can say that the significant change of the FBS is that it helped our community minimize the vices of the people. It also provided income which is a huge help in the daily needs of the people in the area,” Elizabeth mentioned.

Another significant difference is that they were able to pay the school allowance for their children. She said that by letting their children help to sell their products, the kids are learning to save money and how to be business-minded people that will help them in their future endeavors.

“There are also times that we let our kids sell the products in their respective schools and in return we give them commission,” she added.

As a member of the SCARED Group Board of Directors, Elizabeth is looking forward to the time when they can stand on their own as an organization after INREMP ends. She also hopes for the business to expand so that those people in the area who are working outside the community will be able to come back to their families without worrying about money because there will be jobs for them.

Another story was from Apoloniana N. Bingas, Member of Camoteville, SCARED Group Brgy. San Carlos, Danao, Bohol. She is a housewife and has always hoped to have a better life and a good future for her children but was doubtful as she doesn’t have any source of income. With prayers, perseverance, and love from her family, she never lost hope and vision that someday they will be able to have a greater life ahead.

MSC Training in September 2018, Photo credit: Irish Viola Sta. Ana

In 2017, Apoloniana was one of the 20 people who joined the FBS in their community. With eagerness and curiosity, the enrollees attended several meetings and trainings about the FBS and learned from the seven modules of the FBS.

She felt fortunate that she was able to deepen her knowledge in promoting their products to the market through her personal encounter with the customers that she got to know from the FBS. She became one of the workers in Camote Ville where they process products out of sweetpotato such as chips, jam, ketchup and juice/beverage. Today, their products are already in the market and are being displayed at Bensan Store, Danao Adventure Park, and the nearby schools.

Sweetpotato juice and chips are their best sellers while sweetpotato jam is on order basis only. The association is creating some innovations and strategies in order for them to tap more customers in the market and be known. Aside from the employment and additional income the community has also relished the health benefits of sweetpotato, being it rich in vitamins and minerals.

Out of the profit, the association is gaining, Apoloniana receives a daily salary of about 75 to 100 pesos (US$ 1.5-2.0), which allows her to provide snacks such as sweetpotato chips and juice to her children.

She personally hopes that the FBS trainings and workshops will continue and extend more assistance to them so that they will continue to grow and be able to learn more techniques for the success of their chosen business. And as a woman, she will be motivated, refreshed about business, equipped, and have a strong mindset as challenges of the business come along.  Apoloniana’s life-changing motto is to “make your mindset a top business priority because the action you take (or don’t take) always stems from your thoughts. Plan your work and work your plan.”

The significant change that happened to the communities due to the FBS is that their socio-economic status has improved. Women are empowered through employment and have access to additional income for their families. The knowledge and skills the community acquired through the FBS trainings and workshops are priceless.

The MSC stories on the FBS will be compiled in a coffee table book, which is planned to be published in the second quarter of 2019.

The blog was written by Arma R. Bertuso and Camille Joy V. Enalbes


Dart, JJ. & Davies, R. 2003. A Dialogical, Story-Based Evaluation Tool: The Most Significant Change Technique. American Journal of Evaluation. Vol. 24, No. 2, pp. 137-155.

Serrat, O. 2009. The Most Significant Change Technique. Asian Development Bank. Retrieved from

Additional Info:

The MSC is a useful and participatory technique in the monitoring and evaluation of an intervention that does not employ quantitative indicators (Serrat, 2009).  According to Dart and Davies (2003), the MSC is a “dialogical, story-based technique with a primary purpose to facilitate program improvement by focusing the direction of work towards explicitly valued directions and away from less values directions”. First used in a rural development program in Bangladesh, (Davies, 1996 as cited by Dart & Davies, 2003), MSC is now used by many international development organizations to monitor and evaluate their programs (Dart, J & Davies, R, 2003).

The right tools for the job: enabling breeding programs to be gender-responsive

Over the past few decades, gender initiatives across CGIAR have created broad awareness among scientists about the need to consider the impact of new agricultural technologies on both men and women. However, even with this heightened awareness, breeding programs typically ask questions about the gender impact of a new plant variety or animal breed only in the final stages of evaluation or release.

Women’s trait preferences often differ from men’s, and consequently, varieties may not be adopted because women’s interests were not considered, or varieties that are adopted can even have a negative impact on women’s well-being – such as by exacerbating their daily workload or leading to less control over marketing decisions.

New crop varieties or animal breeds developed without considering women’s needs or preferences could have a negative impact on teir well-being. Photo: H.Rutherford/CIP

In this context the CGIAR Gender and Breeding Initiative (GBI) envisions the development of a comprehensive toolbox aimed at the analysis and incorporation of gender perspectives from the very beginning of a breeding program, right through to implementation and impact assessment. The toolbox will be used to assure the gender relevance of tools in the CGIAR Excellence in Breeding Platform (EiB) but will also provide support to national agricultural research institutes and other breeding programs.

Towards this, the Initiative held a workshop from November 12-13 at Cornell University to create a space for gender specialists, breeders and others to review two prototype tools and jointly work toward their refinement for the next step of field testing. The two complimentary tools are the G+ Customer Profile Tool and the G+ Product Profile Development Tool.

“A G+ Customer Profile identifies and disaggregates by gender the users for a specific product of the breeding program,” says agricultural economist, Alastair Orr, who presented an overview of the tool.

“So just as a product profile defines the new breeding product, the G+ Customer Profile gives the breeding program a clear picture of who will potentially be using the new variety – paying special attention to gender issues. It outlines the number of users, their geographic location, socio-economic characteristics, varietal preferences, and the reasons for these preferences,” he explains.

Incorporating this gender dimension means that the traits that are important for women are both captured and reflected in the design of new products. Using the tool will help ensure that breeding programs explicitly address the needs and preferences of different segments of a target population.

A young woman in Nigeria toasts gari, a processed product made from Cassava. Photo: H.Holmes/RT

In small working groups, participants prepared and discussed examples of G+ tool implementation, identifying what worked and what should be improved moving forward. In the customer profile session, groups developed case studies for virus resistant chickens in Tanzania, cassava for young women in Nigeria, potatoes in Kenya, and groundnut in India.

“We found that the tool is a great starting point to discuss in specific details who the ‘customer’ is, what their needs are and how many they are and how we are positioned to serve them. Having this conversation helps us to interrogate our intentions and plans more sharply,” says Esther Njuguna-Mungai, gender specialist at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics.

‘’A key constraint that came up during our discussions is the realization that programs don’t always have enough information or data, that is available in the form and rigor required, to be a basis for decision making about the customers, at the time when the decisions need to be made. An evidence table could collate information on all the market segments, and more specific criteria developed for selecting target segments,” adds Esther.

Participants prepared and discussed examples of G+ tool implementation. Photo: Cornell University

Another key point that arose during the group discussions was the need for a process involving structured conversations between breeders, gender specialists, marketing specialists and others to arrive at the final customer segmentation and prioritization for breeding.

Building on the customer profiles, working groups had a first go at testing the product profile development tool for sorghum in West Africa based on prior detailed gender work by Eva Weltzein, Honorary Associate, Agronomy Department, University of Wisconsin – Madison.

A typical product profile is a set of targeted attributes which a new plant variety or animal breed is expected to meet in order to be released. Attributes are described as traits with a specific value, for example, grain yield of 11 tons per hectare or higher.

“The G+ Product Profile Development tool provides a way for breeding programs to inspect the gender dimension of these traits when they are included in a product profile to determine whether it has any implications for gender equity. It assesses whether a trait meets the minimal ‘do no harm’ standards and allows breeding programs to characterize the benefits of a trait for women users,” explains Vivian Polar, gender, monitoring and evaluation specialist with the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas.

A group photo of workshop participants. Photo: Cornell University

One major point that came up from the discussion was that the exercise of using the tool should carefully weigh the importance of addressing the status quo versus a future projection through foresight analysis.

“Traits that are desired today, and their impact on women, will change in the future and this is particularly important because breeding takes time. Factors like urbanization, increasing incomes, climate change, and mechanization among others, play a role in influencing this, and need to be considered too,” says Vivian.

The workshop made good progress toward understanding the G+ prototype tools and the refinements they need. The tools will be further revised, and their concepts incorporated into a proposal for a project to test the G+ product profile development tool in selected pilots with breeding programs.

These pilots will ultimately lead to a seamless integration of gender-responsive trait prioritization into breeding programs. The EiB will be the principal conduit for the G+ tools, but they will also be used by a range of other teams outside the Program.

GBI will continue to analyze the need for new tools and protocols and develop them based on demand and resources.

Blog by Holly Holmes and Clair Hershey.

Read the original post on the GBI website. 

New network analysis approach to mitigate spread of potato disease

The spread of disease in potato seed systems is a major risk to production and livelihoods. As root and tuber crops are propagated vegetatively, pathogens and pests can accumulate in planting material over successive cycles of propagation and lead to poor quality seed. Balancing the need to manage and control this, while also facilitating the efficient spread of improved varieties among farmers is a challenge. Addressing approaches for evaluating and mitigating the risk of disease in seed systems is an important research area for the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB).

There are around 85,000 potato farmers in Ecuador, of which 75% are estimated to be small-scale producers. Photo courtesy Garrett Lab.

To address this need, we developed a new method of analysis to identify the most important individual stakeholders in a seed system – such as farms, seed multipliers and institutions – who should be a focus for disease detection and management efforts. We modeled and evaluated the spread of disease in farmer seed provisioning networks, or seed systems. We focused on a network of seed tuber transactions for members of a regional potato farmer consortium in Ecuador, called CONPAPA. An interactive interface allows users to see how a new disease is likely to spread through this network.

CONPAPA is a regionally successful farmer cooperative that helps members to buy disease-free planting material and provides training on how to effectively manage pests and diseases. The cooperative also sells potato that member farmers produce in a wide array of markets. In this case, we found that the CONPAPA seed and potato processing center, the main market in Ambato, central Ecuador, and some specific farmers were high risk, high return sites for disease detection and management. Among the CONPAPA members, the use of disease free seed tubers for planting was found to be 36% – much higher than the 2% previously reported for Ecuador.

We also examined the sources that farmers relied on for information about pest and disease management. Advice from staff at agrochemical stores was common, but was considered by farmers to be significantly less reliable than other sources. Farmer access to information, based on the number and quality of sources, was found to be similar for both women and men. However, women had a smaller amount of the market share for seed-tubers and ware potato.

Mitigating the spread of potato disease is an essential step towards helping boost Ecuador’s potato production, which is lower than neighbors, Colombia and Peru. Photo courtesy Garrett Lab.

The evaluation of seed system networks provided input for scenario analyses to evaluate potential improvements that could be made to the system. In this simple system, CONPAPA staff and facilities, the market in Ambato, small agro-chemical stores and certain farms were identified as priorities for disease management interventions based on the roles they played as sources of information or seed for farmers in the area. Suggested interventions to mitigate the spread of poor quality potato planting material include training on disease management, monitoring and improved variety dissemination.

This work was undertaken as part of an RTB project that seeks to reduce the impacts of “seed degeneration” in root and tuber crops, including potato, sweetpotato, yams, cassava and bananas. Models of disease spread, like the one we present, take into account the accumulation and spread of disease in planting materials, and can be applied to more systems to evaluate strategies for controlling risk. We show how the structure of seed networks influences the risk for seedborne disease, and can inform farmers, scientists and managers about where to invest effort to reduce risks to farmers.

The CONPAPA system is relatively small and simple, but the analyses we have developed here are also being applied to larger and more complicated systems, as part of the development of a general theory of seed system deployment in the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas.

This blog was contributed by Chris Buddenhagen (University of Florida), Karen Garrett (Garrett Lab) and Jorge Andrade (International Potato Center), with Holly Holmes (RTB).

Buddenhagen, C.E., Hernandez Nopsa, J.F., Andersen, K.F., Andrade-Piedra, J., Forbes, G.A., Kromann, P., Thomas-Sharma, S., Useche, P., Garrett, K.A., 2017. Epidemic Network Analysis for Mitigation of Invasive Pathogens in Seed Systems: Potato in Ecuador. Phytopathology 107, 1209-1218. Access the open access article: doi:10.1094/PHYTO-03-17-0108-FI 

Technology is not gender neutral

New research examines the factors that influence the adoption of agricultural
technology by men and women.

Closing gender gaps in the agricultural sector is a key element in reducing poverty and improving food security. Women today are the hidden face of agriculture, playing a fundamental role from food production to commercialization, and yet not only do they not have the same access to resources and technological innovations, but often the technologies are not designed considering women’s needs and conditions.

The Latin American gender team of the International Potato Center (CIP) conducted a study to investigate the factors that influence the adoption of agricultural technology by men and women in the Andean region, whose agricultural systems are based on potato production. The main objective of the study was to generate recommendations that can inform the design and development of gender sensitive agricultural technologies. Qualitative information was collected through the implementation of focus group discussions, observation and interviews with technical personnel working directly in CIP’s areas of intervention in the Andean Region (Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru) in the promotion of agricultural technology innovation for food security. The study was carried out with the support of the CGIAR Research Programs on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB), and on Policy, Institutions and Markets (PIM).

One important result of the study is that technology itself is not neutral and entails gender biases that can occur when the conditions of the target group (men, women, youth, or other disadvantaged groups) are not considered at different stages.

Andean potato farmers with their harvest of native varieties. Photo: CIP

For example, men and women in the community of Achullay in Ecuador, highlighted different aspects about the use of chemical or organic inputs for planting and fumigation. Women claimed that they prefer to use organic fertilizers because of their easy preparation, low cost, and because they can prepare and apply it themselves. Although it may require more time in comparison to the application of chemicals, it is preferred due to health issues. Women mentioned that food produced with organic inputs is tastier. On the other hand, men mention that the disadvantage of using organic inputs is that they are less effective, especially against late blight, a condition that considerably affects potato production. Therefore, they report using chemicals for production destined to the market (because they request larger size potatoes), whereas they do not use chemicals for production destined to home-consumption.

Analyzing the results of the research, we have been able to catalog the different factors that influence technology adoption in three different types: i) internal factors that include elements related to the productive context (social, political, environmental, economic and cultural), historical and educational factors, and gender roles; ii) technological attributes, which are inherent to technology and its use (technical, structural and operational characteristics of the technology); and iii) external factors related to access to productive resources (land, capital, labor), physical access to productive areas and access to information.

The hidden face of agriculture, women play a core role from production to commercialization. Photo: CIP

According to testimonies of farmers from Jacopampa in Bolivia, and technicians working in technology dissemination, one of the important tasks is potato selection by size. They say: “This task is usually performed by women manually.” In order to reduce the time devoted to this task, equipment for mechanized potato selection was introduced. The evaluations showed positive results but the equipment was not adopted. This was due to the fact that in validation meetings more men than women participated and they gladly operated the equipment. However, within the families, it was still the women who carried out this task. Women found the operation difficult due to the height of the equipment and the strength necessary to lift the potato bags to feed the equipment. Once these conditions were understood, a much simpler equipment (lower size, without cranks, where the potatoes slipped by gravity and were pushed manually through sieves) was introduced. This equipment reduced the time allocated to manual selection, but its simplicity, low bearing and lower requirement of physical strength allowed women to adopt it.

Throughout the different focus groups, the relationship between gender roles (accepted in the context) and the type of technology adopted by men and women was clearly observed. In Peru, for example, women more frequently mentioned adopting technologies related to food processing, seed selection, composting, and sprinkler irrigation. These technologies respond to gender roles assigned to women within the household and the community, such as food preparation, production of minor crops for self-consumption and waste management. In the case of men, they more frequently mentioned adopting technologies related to productive infrastructure (seed storage, construction of platforms), plot organization (rotation of crops), and technologies that require physical strength and/or intensive use of labor.

In conclusion, the results of the study showed that the potential adoption of agricultural technologies may differ between women and men, depending on different factors and their interactions. That is to say that factors do not independently influence the adoption of technology by farmers, but rather interact with each other thus shaping the potential adoption of agricultural technologies.

The final report of this work will be available online soon.

Blog contributed by Dr. Claudia Babini of the International Potato Center. 

RTB launches second phase and enhanced partnership with Wageningen University & Research

Wageningen University and Research (WUR) hosted a seminar and launch event on 11 May at its campus in the Netherlands to celebrate the second phase of the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) and its enhanced partnership with the university. The event brought together over 50 participants and included a lively discussion of the role of the private sector, seed systems and youth during a panel debate.

Arthur Mol, Rector Magnificus, WUR, opened the launch and stressed the need to address the social dimension of technological change to achieve development impacts for root, tuber and banana crops. He noted that in this regard the Knowledge, Technology and Innovation (KTI) group at WUR will play an especially important role in the enhanced partnership with RTB.

Arthur Mol, Rector Magnificus, WUR, opened the event on May 11. Photo: WUR

“The second phase of RTB which runs from 2017 – 2022, places an enhanced emphasis on scaling, a key element in the stronger partnership with WUR,” explained Graham Thiele, RTB Director. He went on to note that “RTB has reorganized by interdisciplinary ‘flagship projects’, which are made up by a number of smaller ‘clusters’ or projects dedicated to key research areas. And we are really pleased to have a team from KTI leading a cluster on scaling and partnerships, including a novel method for assessing scaling readiness.” Thiele added that the scaling of innovations lies at the core of achieving RTB’s ambitious targets of reaching millions of beneficiaries by 2022.

“Traditionally, the scaling of innovations or technologies was done at the end of a project with a finished package that was supposedly ready to be adopted by a broader group perhaps linked with summary sheets shared with policy makers. The scaling readiness method will allow scientists and societal partners to think systematically about how scaling of their proposed technology depends on a combination of technological changes, and also the enabling social-organizational environment. Discussing these matters with stakeholders helps to improve scaling strategies and conditions for scaling,” explains Cees Leeuwis, a professor of KTI who leads the RTB scaling cluster.

RTB’s collaboration with KTI first began with research on multiple root, tuber and banana seed systems with Conny Almekinders a KTI researcher. Since then, this work has evolved to include a broader range of tools such as seed tracer studies, and is now a core component of another RTB cluster on “Access to quality seeds and varieties”, for which a workshop was underway concurrently with the launch. A joint presentation during the event by Almekinders and Margaret McEwan of the International Potato Center (CIP) showed why thinking about seed is more than genes, and how these perspectives are critical for sustainable interventions.

L to R: Margaret McEwan, Cees Leeuwis, Graham Thiele and Conny Almekinders participate in the panel discussion on seed systems. Photo: WUR

“In Chencha, Ethiopia, a seed tracer study of seed movements found that surprisingly wealthy male potato farmers most effectively multiply and share seed with poorer farmers including women,” McEwan explained during the presentation. Understanding how seed actually moves can guide improvements in seed system interventions and successful scaling.

“WUR is an exciting and dynamic partner who brings new perspectives and expertise to RTB, especially from the social sciences, around seed systems, scaling and innovation. This is highly complementary to our CGIAR skill set,” says Thiele.

“Often we have great technologies, but they can get stuck in the local pilot site where we began testing. In those cases, it’s essential to know what happened and why the technology didn’t go further. Of course there are excellent examples of scaling in RTB such as with orange fleshed sweetpotato, but there are too few cases like that. So we need to understand better the secrets of success and began to plan for scaling from the beginning,” he adds.

A participant asks a question during the lively panel discussion. Photo: WUR

The partnership also brings potential new capacity development opportunities through the mentoring of students who may be able to conduct research with RTB and WUR towards their MSc or PhD projects.

“I hope that we can find a conducive balance between doing interesting science, and being relevant to international development. And I hope we can operationalize this in part through offering candidates from development partners the possibility to obtain a PhD. Such trajectories are a very effective way of combining research, capacity development and partnership development,” says Leeuwis.

Together both RTB and WUR are working to achieve large-scale societal impact for the benefit of smallholders throughout the root, tuber and banana value chains, and the launch event of RTB Phase II provided an opportunity to celebrate the steps that are being taken towards achieving that shared vision.

Starting from Tuesday 16 May, RTB will release a series of blogs dedicated to the program’s new flagship projects in Phase II.

The nuts and bolts of collaborative research on roots, tubers and bananas: RTB Annual Meeting

As the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) kicks off Phase II, the team came together in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, for an annual review and planning meeting from March 11 – 12.

The meeting built on the momentum from the RTB World Café on Scalable Technologies which took place the day before, and along with updates of progress, focused on refining the nuts and bolts of collaboration to build effective flagship project and cluster teams. 

The event brought together over 80 researchers from across RTB’s five program partner centers – International Potato CenterInternational Institute of Tropical AgricultureBioversity International, International Center for Tropical Agriculture and Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD) – along with colleagues from other partners including Wageningen University.

Over 80 participants from RTB partner centers came together for the annual meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Photo H.Holmes/RTB

Graham Thiele, RTB Program Director set the scene with an analysis of strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the program, and some key responses to the address the points identified in the analysis.

“RTB is entering its second phase in a strong position. We had one of the highest rated proposals for Phase II, we have clear impact pathways to reach our targeted outcomes by 2022 and our alliance model means we have cemented, effective partnerships that will be critical to allow us to reach those goals. However, we also have areas to improve upon – The cost and complexity of coordinating such a large-scale program with over 350 partners is a challenge, as is the need to carefully steward our W2 funding and  mobilize funding for cross cutting opportunities,” explained Thiele.

“We also need to strengthen flagship leader’s roles in science quality and knowledge management, and cluster leader’s roles in project management, along with maintaining the ‘glue’ of collaboration in cross cutting areas,” he added.

Anne Rietveld shared a program update on gender research, highlighting the successful collaboration with the Gender Responsive Researchers Equipped for Agricultural Transformation (GREAT) project, which provided training to agricultural researchers from sub-Saharan Africa on gender-responsive research for root, tuber and banana crops in 2016.

Claudio Proietti explained the progress of the new Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) Platform launched at the end of 2016 as an all-in-one modular platform for improving planning, management, monitoring, evaluation, and reporting. 

Holly Holmes presented progress in RTB communications and outreach, including tracking digital analytics and engagement, and highlighting RTB’s interactive 2015 Annual Report website.

Conny Almekinders (center) of Wageningen University, summarizes key discussion points from the Flagship Project 2 session with the broader group. Photo H.Holmes/RTB

Flagship project leaders held interactive groupwork sessions with their teams, which are ordinarily geographically dispersed. A key output of the lively groupwork was a one-year timeline for each flagship detailing key upcoming events and moments in the project calendar, together with ideas for resource mobilization. As each FP presented their timeline and key discussion points to the broader group, members of other flagships identified areas of synergy and cross-flagship collaboration.

Simon Heck, Flagship Project 4 (FP4) leader, noted that the meeting had helped the team to come together and build some momentum.

“This was the first physical meeting of the FP4 team. We discovered that our different crop research groups are already working towards similar goals – strengthening the consumer focus of our research, supporting innovation that diversifies the use of RTB crops, and finding solutions for managing the perishability and environmental footprint of RTB crops as the food systems become more complex,” Heck explained.

Simon Heck (center left) and members of the FP4 team in group discussion. Photo H.Holmes/RTB

“The session gave us a sense of common purpose, and greater confidence that, by working together in the flagship, we can address these large questions more effectively and realistically. As an immediate next step, scientists from all partners and clusters are now contributing to a compelling cross-cutting research agenda for the flagship and are committing to joint research proposals on some key research issues affecting several RTB crops. It was a real energizer for FP4 and many of us will meet again in June to produce the first set of joint outputs,” he added.

Other participants divided into small groups to discuss practical guidance and next steps on the following areas:

  • Coordination and communication of, and between, clusters
  • Strategic Innovation fund
  • Monitoring and Evaluation
  • Big Data Platform
  • Excellence in Breeding Platform

The outputs of these discussions can be found in the annual meeting report.

In order to improve the lives of millions of men and women who depend on root, tuber and banana crops by 2022, it’s essential to ensure we have the nuts and bolts in place for an effective program team. To this end, the RTB Annual Review and Planning Meeting helped to solidify new flagship and cluster teams, and position the group for a strong start to Phase II.

For more detailed information about the meeting, please see the RTB Annual Review and Planning Meeting Report.

Expanding the horizons of biodiversity for sustainable food futures

The biodiversity of domesticated biota and food-supplying ecosystems holds unparalleled importance for breeding and crop and livestock improvement. This importance has fueled decades-long emphasis and debate on germplasm collections and in situ genetic resources. But the range of interest in agrobiodiversity is also expanding.

Now a new article in the journal Nature Plants by Karl Zimmerer, Pennsylvania State University, and Stef de Haan, International Center for Tropical Agriculture, is focused on these expanding horizons. Their article is entitled “Agrobiodiversity and a Sustainable Food Future.” It crystallizes the four-part framework that is emerging from recent advances and interest. The framework is highly relevant for the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tuber and Bananas (RTB), which is one of the main CGIAR Research Programs investing in the broader sustainability implications of agrobiodiversity.

Agricultural landscape in Vietnam. Photo S.DeHaan/CIAT

In their Nature Plants article Zimmerer and de Haan draw on new contributions in research, development, policy, academic, and activist institutions worldwide. The article reflects the ‘Agrobiodiversity in the 21st Century‘ forum held last October in Frankfurt at the Institute for Advanced Studies with support from the Strungmann Foundation.

35 international scientists, scholars, and practitioners, including several from the RTB community, participated. Agenda-setting came from the advisory committee of Connie Almekinders, Stephen Brush, Timothy Johns, and Yves Vigoroux, in addition to de Haan and Zimmerer. The Foundation is providing vital support that includes the resulting book (Agrobiodiversity in the 21st Century, to be published in early 2018 by the MIT Press).

Food, Nutrition, and Health
This focus is central to the expanding horizons of agrobiodiversity. The new UN “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” calls for agrobiodiversity to contribute to food security, nutrition. and health. This use links agrobiodiversity to food systems, producer and consumer choices, human nutrition and economic development. This is essential for root, tuber and banana crops as food preferences and uses are main drivers of on-farm conservation. Furthermore, evidence is highlighting the complementary nature of bred varieties and landraces in rural and urban food systems alike.

Genetic Resources, Ecology, and Evolution
Expanding emphasis on the resilience and sustainability of food biodiversity is related to cultural, agroecological, and evolutionary interactions. There is a suite of new research among agroecologists, biogeographers, culture-and-plant researchers, evolutionary biologists, and geneticists. This expansion of concept- and information-based approaches is linking molecular techniques to agroecological experimentation, cultural practices and histories, innovative monitoring, and “big data” methods. It is essential for RTB’s spearheading a robust monitoring framework, e.g. the Chirapaq Ñan Initiative of the International Potato Center in Latin America, which can up- and out-scale across crops and centers of diversity.

Farmers harvest native potato varieties in Peru. Photo S.DeHaan/CIAT

Governance Challenges and Opportunities
Governance mechanisms for agrobiodiversity have been broadened to involve multiple international arrangements, though with incomplete results to-date. Still community, grassroots, and civil society organizations are experimenting with innovative institutions and actions. Many regions rely on robust informal seed networks of food plant biodiversity whose strengths also require scientific and policy support. Not only RTB genetic resources need to be governed, but also the associated OMICS information.

Global Change and Social-Ecological Interactions
Individuals and societies increasingly confront the challenges of global climate, demography, land use intensification and planning, and the large-scale integration of food systems and global markets, as well as urbanization and peri-urban expansion. These interactions also crosscut each of the above areas of focus. Social-ecological interactions amid global change is actively triggering the loss as well as the enrichment and conservation of the biodiversity of agriculture and food.

Native potato varieties from Peru

Potato landraces in Peru. Photo S.DeHaan/CIAT

Rice varieties on display at a market in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Rice varieties on display at a market in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo S.DeHaan/CIAT

The findings in Zimmerer and de Haan’s new article demonstrate the need for integrative approaches within and among each of these four areas of expanding horizons. Integration also underscores the complex roles of smallholder and indigenous people. These key stakeholders continue to comprise a major segment of the world’s population that is most culturally aware and knowledgeable about agrobiodiversity while being disproportionately food-insecure and impoverished.

Their emerging framework promises to have practical usefulness for the program’s phase II work on genetic diversity. More broadly it also reflects the RTB community, which is among the most active and innovative interdisciplinary groups researching the multiple dimensions of agrobiodiversity use and evolution in a globalized world.

This article was contributed by Karl S. Zimmerer (Pennsylvania State University) and Stef de Haan (International Center for Tropical Agriculture)

RTB-ENDURE banana project offers solutions for postharvest losses

Researchers collaborating under the ‘Expanding utilization of roots, tubers and bananas and reducing their postharvest losses’ (RTB-ENDURE) banana sub-project have identified solutions that will help Ugandan banana farmers and traders reduce income loss due to poor handling of their produce. The solutions were officially launched during the subproject’s final event which took place on 25-26 November 2016 in Masaka and Rakai Districts, Uganda.

Uganda produces about 10 million tons of banana per hectare per year , from an estimated 1.3 million hectares nationwide. For ordinary Ugandans, cooking banana is not just a staple crop but part of the socio-cultural fabric of the smallholder households and is used for medicine, bride price and marriage negotiations, birth and death rituals. The crop has been ranked number one for drought resilience in areas of the cattle corridor which are prone to prolonged droughts and frequent floods.

Participants listen during a session at the Final Event in Masaka. Photo by J.Turyatemba/Bioversity Internationa

In the event’s opening remarks, Dr Eldad Karamura, Bioversity International Regional Representative, said that in the last 15 years, NARO-Uganda and Bioversity International have collaborated on many banana research projects, largely in the pre-harvest sector of the value chain, including diversity conservation. He added that Bioversity International will move to further strengthen the postharvest sector to address hidden hunger in children and young mothers by promoting the consumption of vitamin A- and iron-rich bananas at the household level.

The banana sub-project is part of the larger RTB-ENDURE project implemented by CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) with funding from the European Union and technical support of IFAD. The overall purpose of the RTB-ENDURE project is to improve food availability and income generation through enhanced postharvest management and expanded use of RTB crops in Uganda.

As part of the activities that took place to mark the final event of the project, a science day was held where research findings were disseminated to an audience consisting of researchers, banana farmers, civil society, government agencies, the media, agro-processors, exporters and local government officials.

At the event’s science day, Dr. Diego Naziri, RTB-ENDURE Project Coordinator, explained that bulkiness and high perishability of RTB crops coupled with poor postharvest handling and lack of processing and storage facilities result in a short shelf life, high postharvest losses and limited value addition.

The banana sub-project adopted the Participatory Market Chain Approach (PMCA) developed by the International Potato Center (CIP). Under this design, all actors (farmers, collectors, wholesalers, retailers, exporters, researchers, non-governmental organizations, etc.) in the banana value chain are brought together to jointly identify, analyse and exploit market innovations.

A Ugandan banana exporter prepares her produce. Photo S.Quinn/CIP

According to Dr. Enoch Kikulwe, the banana sub-project coordinator, 18.2% of all the cooking bananas produced in Uganda (corresponding to 47.3% of traded bananas) suffer postharvest losses. Of this amount, 8.9% of the bananas deteriorate completely and have no residual value while 9.3% only deteriorate partially and are sold at prices lower than their normal market rates. This particularly impacts retailers, who are largely women.

In order to maximize sales and income, farmers are advised to concentrate on banana varieties that already have an existing market and high untapped demand. The available identified varieties include Mbwazirume, Kibuzi, Musakala and Nakitembe.

In a gender analysis undertaken as part of the project by Susan Ajambo, a Gender Specialist with Bioversity International, it was found that women are concentrated in banana retail, which is the least profitable node of the value chain. The project therefore supported women to participate in the more profitable nodes of the value chain, such as in wholesale and the production of healthy planting material. According to Ajambo, both men and women have already embraced the macro-propagation technique and have established commercial chambers for selling clean banana plantlets of selected varieties.

Among the other areas, the project has also identified optimum harvest time and storage conditions for bananas, developed market linkages, trained hundreds of farmers in enhanced postharvest handling and piloted sales by weight.

During the final event, a tour to a commercial seed multiplication chamber and a mother garden at Ddwaniiro in Rakai district was also organised where farmer groups held practical demonstrations of the new techniques of multiplying popular banana variety cultivars for commercial farming.

A number of institutions partnered in the project, including the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), CIRAD, NARO, KAIKA InvestCo, Uganda Fruits and Vegetable Exporters and Producers Association (UFVEPA), district local governments, and the Ssemwanga Group.

The project activities have been piloted in South-west Uganda in the districts of Rakai and Isingiro. This region produces 68% of the cooking bananas harvested in Uganda. The project began in 2014 and ended in December 2016.

Blog contributed by Joshua Turyatemba of Bioversity International