Tag Archives: cassava

How RTB researchers try to develop the potential of RTB seed systems

Roots, tubers and bananas share one characteristic that unites them in the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tuber and Bananas (RTB): farmers multiply them vegetatively, rather than as true seeds produced by sexual reproduction. Of course, they are also extremely important for the food security, nutrition and livelihoods of the most resource-poor farmers on Earth. And that makes a recent paper in the journal Food Security, which asks why interventions in RTB seed systems do not reach their full potential, important to policy-makers and farmers alike.

Together with RTB colleagues, Conny Almekinders, of Wageningen University in the Netherlands, examined 13 previous efforts to improve seed systems for potato, sweetpotato, cassava, yam and banana. “We began to look at these cases in 2014,” Almekinders said, “as it became clear that an increasing number of RTB projects were introducing new varieties and improved multiplication practices, especially in Africa.”

“The case study documents did not show us evidence of many efforts to understand target seed systems,” Almekinders added.

Too often, the projects did not consider the fact that they were intervening in an existing local seed system or farmers who were known to be local seed experts. Many projects simply assumed that some farmers would specialize and become seed-supply entrepreneurs to fill the gap where the public sector could not reach, and the private sector was absent or uninterested. Such projects were often founded on the idea of a central source of high-quality foundation stock, usually produced with advanced technology, such as aeroponic micro-potatoes, yam mini-setts, and tissue culture bananas. These would then be passed to “decentralized multipliers” who would create further generations for distribution.

This approach succeeded sometimes, as with sweetpotatoes in Rwanda, where there was a good link to market for the products. In other cases, Almekinders says, “without project support and subsidies, the technical and economic viability of these decentralized multipliers is not clear.”

One problem, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, is that many farmer cultures consider it inappropriate to pay or to ask for payment for planting material. This reticence may be partially overcome in the case of new varieties, but otherwise is likely to limit the opportunities for business-based informal RTB seed systems.

Some projects, such as the introduction of orange-fleshed sweetpotato in Mozambique, focused on health and nutrition and barely considered the seed system. Despite this, adoption and spread, via the informal seed system, have been impressive. “Orange-fleshed sweetpotatoes are now being grown by thousands of women on small plots of land,” Almekinders said. Varieties will spread and be adopted if farmers see a benefit.

RTB community of practice on one of their learning journeys, a joint visit of KEPHIS laboratories in Nairobi, Kenya

Pros and cons

Vegetative reproduction means that the variety keeps its genetic characteristics, unlike sexually produced seeds. This is a boon when getting new material into the hands of farmers, because it means they can share the improved material in their communities. The flip side, however, is that viruses and other diseases can accumulate in the planting material, reducing its performance.

Farmer-to-farmer diffusion remains the primary route for adoption, as farmers with good experiences multiply the improved material and share it with others. For banana, cassava and potato, the cases show that farmers often share new material with five or more others.

Unfortunately, diseases often spread along with the crops, as they have recently for viruses of cassava in eastern Africa and banana bunchy top virus in the Congo basin. Such degeneration is perhaps the most common reason for farmers to seek RTB planting material off their farm. Although this suggests an additional motivation for decentralized multipliers, there is little evidence that farmers will pay for clean planting material of varieties they already have.

What farmers want

The lack of demand is not simply because farmers do not understand the benefits; in many cases they lack other essential resources to make use of better planting material, such as capital or knowledge. Researchers may insert ‘demand’ in their project proposals, but when the project fails to distribute the expected amount of material, they seldom analyze the reasons why predicted demand did not materialize.

“Improved assessment of farmers’ demand will contribute to improving seed system interventions,” said Almekinders.

Government policy represents another barrier to improved seed systems. Certification schemes that guarantee the quality of planting material may raise costs beyond the reach of most farmers. But the absence of such schemes leaves farmers open to the sale of poor-quality seed.

Potential delivered

A 1990 study of potato identified many of the same problems as this more complete and wide-ranging survey of RTB seed interventions. “Not much seems to have changed since,” said Almekinders. But change is now in the air. The International Potato Center is already applying a diagnosis of existing seed systems to all projects going forward. And the project has started to create change beyond RTB.

“Just last week I learned that our framework is being used in a PhD project in Eritrea,” Almekinders said. “The key to progress is to pay attention to what works where, and for whom, and how to scale up good practices. We have not been good at understanding RTB systems or listening to what farmers really need. If we want to improve RTB crops, we have to improve RTB seed systems too.”

New manuals show how to extend shelf-life of cassava roots to increase incomes & food security

Cassava is a key source of food and income in many developing countries in Africa. In sub-Saharan Africa, it is a major staple providing over 20% of calorific requirements and constituting nearly two-thirds of per capita food production.

However, one of the major challenges facing cassava is the rapid postharvest physiological deterioration of fresh roots which usually make them unpalatable within two to three days of harvest. Consequently, cassava roots need to be consumed or processed soon after harvesting.

Smallholder farmers in Uganda pose with their cassava harvest. Innovations that prolong the shelf-life of cassava are in high demand by farmers and traders. Photo S. Quinn/CIP                                                                                   

This short shelf-life severely restricts the marketing options for the crop as it increases the likelihood of losses, marketing costs, and limits access to distant urban markets. It also creates high postharvest losses, often forces farmers and retailers to sell produce at discounted prices and limits food security in the many nations dependent on cassava as a staple food.

The application of technologies that extend the cassava shelf-life, such as waxing and relative humidity storage, can increase marketing opportunities and incomes for smallholders as well as contribute to the reduction of postharvest losses that affect directly mainly retailers and indirectly all value chain actors.

As part of the Expanding Utilization of Roots, Tubers and Bananas and Reducing Their Postharvest Losses project (RTB-ENDURE), two practical manuals have been developed to build the capacities of actors in producing, handling, processing and marketing fresh cassava roots whose shelf-life is extended through these technologies.

The first manual provides information on how setting up a pack house for waxing and relative humidity storage. The second manual guides users on the best handling methods for fresh cassava roots right from field preparation to marketing.

Sharon Acheng of Makarere University holds a waxed (back) and a non-waxed (front) cassava root. Sharon is one of three students who conducted post-graduate research on cassava in coordination with National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) of Uganda and RTB. Photo S.Quinn/CIP                                                                               

Both manuals are valuable resources for entrepreneurs and organization willing to establish and run such a processing plant as well as farmers interested in supplying roots to the pack house.

The CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) will continue research to expand the utilization of RTB crops and add value through postharvest innovation, as part of the program’s Flagship Project 4 (FP4).

FP4 will address the perishability of root, tuber and banana crops through improved storage, transportability and diversified use, while promoting gender-equitable development and youth employment along the value chain. The flagship will also develop improved methods for postharvest process modeling that integrate technical, economic and environmental aspects and enhance the sustainability and profitability of the postharvest sector.

Read more about the RTB-ENDURE project’s work on cassava in our photo story ‘Creating change with cassava: Improving livelihoods of cassava farmers and traders in Uganda’

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.

‘Carrier women’ shoulder a heavy burden in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Cassava is an RTB crop of key importance in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is often processed into flour and used to make ‘bugali’, a dense porridge served with meat and cassava leaves, ‘sombe‘. Many agree that a meal without bugali is not a meal.

Women play a key role in the production of processing of cassava to feed their families. In Bukavu, a town with a rapidly growing population of around 1.2 million, women also play key roles in the cassava value chain. They work as transporters and carry cassava, among other goods, from markets to final destinations that include restaurants and private residences. Their burden is heavy, carrying between 50-100kg, and the distance they travel may require them to walk for up to 3 hours.

A woman carries a heavy load of cassava cuttings on the farm in Bukavu. Photo: R.Bullock/IITA

International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Yet, women worldwide continue to be over-represented in the informal sector, characterized by low skills and wages, poor rates of remuneration that disfavor women, and discrimination and violence against women (ADB, 2013).

Women in Bukavu face significant challenges to earning a living. Conflict and gender inequalities, supported by social norms and practices, are pervasive and undermine women’s progress towards acquiring land, earning income and securing agricultural livelihoods. In Bukavu, many women have sought work in the informal sector in agricultural markets as transporters. The so-called ‘carrier women’ are a visible part of the informal workforce, seen bearing burdens of 100kg or more of cassava, charcoal or sand, for instance.

Women carriers. Photo credit: Boryana Dzhambazova for International Herald Tribune

Over the last few weeks I interviewed 17 women carriers who work at the Muhanzi Beach Market, a key port of entry for ships carrying goods from Idjwi Island. The women told me about their experiences carrying cassava, charcoal and sand in a quiet setting at a local hospital. Through their stories of hunger, of their children’s difficulties and spouses’ illnesses, these women maintained a stoic resolve. Meanwhile, I was thinking, what possibilities might there be for the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to support these women’s transition out of these dangerous working conditions?  Too, how might the research activities of the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) support the development of alternative income generating activities for these women?

Road in Bukavu with Muhanzi Beach Market in the background. Photo: R.Bullock/IITA

Many families fled from their home villages in rural areas during the Congo War, which officially ended in 2004. Among them were women who sought to earn a living. Today, carrier women often live in the outskirts of Bukavu and walk up to two hours to reach the market in the morning. Then they wait for the boats to arrive with goods coming in from Idjwi Island.

The women interviewed have, on average, been working as carriers for 14 years, some as many as 25 years. Working conditions are very difficult. Furah said, “Children in the neighborhood call me grandmother. I am only 53, but even a 60 year old looks younger than me.” Women went on to complain of body aches, painful knees, even hair loss from the rubbing of the sack on the back of their head. Women also talked about changes in the market over the last decade. In earlier times, most of the carrying was done by women; it was easy to find customers who would hire them to carry goods to their homes or restaurants. Nowadays, young men in search of money are also carrying heavy loads and the competition for customers is high. Young men’s entry into the market has made it more challenging for women to find work. Too, men often accept lower pay for the same tasks. Women once could be sure they would earn ~4 USD per day, now they sometimes end the day with 1.50 USD per day, and worse, sometimes nothing. 

Figure 5. Justine, aged 44, has carried for 9 years

The women I interviewed are the main earners in the household, supporting an average of 8 children. Four are widows. Others’ husbands went off to work in mines, are jobless or ill. Women decide how to spend their money and purchase food and save the remainder to pay rent and school fees. Food is never enough and they often eat one meal in their households, dinner. It is difficult to cover the costs of school fees, yet these women’s ambition is to see their children finish school. Collette explained, “I want my children to study and to one day help me. I don’t want them to perform hard labor, school can help. They could be teachers or nurses.”

These women interviewed expressed hope to save capital and start a small business, selling flour or vegetables, for example. These interviews are a first step to learning about these women’s lives, their challenges, and their aspirations. The stories provide a basis from which to develop business options to enable women to transition out of this type of work. Preliminary ideas for business models include engaging in value chain activities with IKYA Agripeneurs  and with Community Cassava Processing Centers (CCPCs) in South Kivu.

Carrier women of Bukavu and Renee Bullock, IITA Gender Specialist

Figure 5. Carrier women of Bukavu and Renee Bullock, IITA Gender Specialist

International Women’s Day calls upon all of us, women and men, old and young, to work together to achieve change to improve women’s working conditions and opportunities worldwide. IITA and RTB  efforts support progress towards these achievements.


Article contributed by Renee Bullock, Gender Specialist, IITA
Contact: R.Bullock@cgiar.org

For more details see the New York Times story ‘Women as human pack horses in the Democratic Republic of Congo’


Accelerating Africa’s economic growth through root and tuber crops

The 13th International Symposium for the International Society for Tropical Root Crops- Africa Branch (ISTRC-AB) has kicked off this week in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The four day meeting (5-8 March) brings together over 300 delegates from government agriculture ministries in Africa, development partners, international and national agriculture research organizations, academia, private sector as well as farmers with an interest in root and tuber crops in Africa.

Participants will present and discuss latest research, innovations, technologies and trends on root crops in line with the theme “Expanding Collaboration, Catalyzing Innovation of Root Crops for Accelerating Africa’s Economic Growth”.

Farmers rejoice over better access to healthy seed potato in Kenya. Photo: FIPs-Africa

“We hope we will get practical hands-on solutions, that can help address farmers’ constraints in production of root crops, with the modest investment dedicated to research and development of these crops,” said Tanzania’s Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries (MALF) in a speech read by his Director Dr. Hussein Mansoor. He encouraged researchers to work together with the farmers, policy makers and all stakeholders, for co-ownership of research findings to increase chances of technology adoption for the intended improved productivity and utilization of root crops.

He also further called for applause of the 2016 World Food Prize (WFP) laureates from the International Potato Center (CIP) which is the lead center of the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) —Drs Maria Andrade, Robert Mwanga and Jan Low, all attending ISTRC-AB—for their great achievement in contributing to reduced hidden hunger among women and children of Africa, through the orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP).

Earlier, Dr. Low delivered a key note address, at ISTRC-AB, highlighting significant gains made in sweetpotato work in the region.  “Our breeding work in Africa has grown from only two countries in 2005 to 12 in 2009. A further three are engaged in varietal selection,” said Low.                                  

Dr. Jan Low delivers key note address the 13th ISTRC-AB symposium in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Photo: V. Atakos (CIP)

She highlighted investments by national governments as important in supporting roll out of nutritious root crops such as OFSP. “Policy  support is critical in helping change perception of sweetpotato as a crop for the poor,” she said.

The meeting revolves around five sub themes relevant to RTB:

  • Managing priority genetic resources, cropping systems and pests and diseases
  • Commercial seed system, agronomy and weed management
  • Post harvest technologies, nutrition, value chains and market opportunities
  • Enhancing innovative impact through partnerships
  • Mobilizing investors for sustainable root and tuber crop research and development.

The concluding day of the conference on March 09 will feature a special plenary session for RTB to provide an update on the progress and results from the program’s five flagship projects. 

ISTRC-AB conference has been organized by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) working closely with a number of partners including RTB, CIP, and the Natural Resources Institute among others. ISTRC-AB was established in 1978 and is headquartered in IITA.


Blog contributed by Vivian Atakos, Regional Communications Specialist, International Potato Center

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 

Nigeria’s gari revolution: improving efficiency and equity of a staple food

Gari is a staple food for millions of West Africans, particularly in Nigeria where its production exceeds 9 million tons a year, and employs hundreds of thousands of people – especially women and children.

Made from cassava, gari is a creamy-white granular flour with a slightly sour taste that is most commonly eaten either by being soaked in cold water together with ingredients such as sugar or roasted groundnuts, or as a paste (eba) made with hot water.

Cassava deteriorates rapidly after harvesting so processing into gari makes an excellent, safe and storable convenience food. It has a lot of potential for feeding rapidly growing urban populations.

The process of turning cassava roots in to gari involves numerous labor-intensive steps including grating the peeled, washed cassava roots and leaving the material to ferment for several days, slowly pressing the fermented mash to remove excess liquid, sieving and then frying and stirring on a large metal pan often over a wood fire. Gari processing itself is largely in the hands of women in small local facilities and represents an important source of income and employment for them.

Small-scale gari processing in Nigeria. Photo G.Thiele/RTB

Small-scale gari processing in Nigeria is a key source of employment for women. Photo G.Thiele/RTB

This process uses locally made, robust and simple equipment. However, it is not very efficient – around five tons of fresh roots are needed to produce one ton of gari and peeling the cassava by hand, a job mainly performed by women, is very time consuming. It also requires large quantities of firewood to roast the gari, and the smoke and general working conditions is a significant health issue for the women involved. The process also generates liquid waste from pressing the gari and heaps of waste peels which are an environmental hazard.

However, there is also a small but growing group of larger modern enterprises which are producing packaged gari using mechanized equipment for peeling, grating and frying.

To establish a detailed roadmap of the actions needed to meet the growing demand for safe and nutritious gari whilst balancing income and employment generation for men, women and youth, the ‘Gari Revolution in Nigeria: Roadmap to an Efficient and Equitable Gari Processing System’ meeting took place in Ibadan, Nigeria, from October 4 – 6, 2016.

Led by the Global Cassava Partnership for the 21st Century (GCP21) supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB), the meeting brought together policy makers, scientists and experts from the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the Natural Resources Institute (NRI) and the International Cooperation Center for Research on Agronomic Development (CIRAD) along with many other partners in Nigeria with participants from Ghana and Uganda as well.

Women working in IITA's gari processing center fry gari, one of the last steps in the process. Photo D.Dufour

Women working in IITA’s model gari processing centre. Frying gari is one of the last steps in the process. Photo D.Dufour

“Because gari is regularly consumed by millions of Nigerians every day, and with cities projected to grow so fast we need to have a ‘gari revolution’. This will involve addressing many challenges simultaneously,” said Dr. Claude Fauquet, Director of GCP21.

“If the ‘gari revolution’ is successful we can reposition gari as a food of the future. It can play a key role as a locally produced source of much needed carbohydrates. It is also an excellent vehicle to improve human nutrition both in Nigeria and West Africa. While gari itself provides much needed carbohydrates, it has a relatively low protein, mineral and vitamin content, and there is the potential to enhance this by adding a supplement or through biofortification,” he explained.

Dr. Busie Maziya-Dixon, Senior Scientist, Food and Nutrition, IITA agrees, adding: “Gari provides essential carbohydrates and is an essential part of people’s diets. We are keen to explore options to make it even more nutritious. This is one of the key areas the workshop discussed: How do we improve the nutritional quality of gari without changing the texture and taste which the Nigeria population love so much? And what steps should be undertaken to make this a reality?”

The safety and environmental aspects of gari processing were also major topics of discussion during the workshop, and are of concern to Dr. Acho Okike, Senior Agricultural Economist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) who added: “We really need to get to grips with safety and working conditions in the processing environment which could give cassava a bad name! Collecting and transforming cassava peels into high quality animal feed will be a major first step.”

Workshop participants. Photo G.Aster/IITA

From L-R, Sanni Lateef (Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta), Graham Thiele (RTB), Peter Kulakow (IITA), Busie Maziya-Dixon (IITA) and Claude Fauquet (GCP21). Photo G.Aster/IITA

The workshop built on earlier work supported by RTB’s Flagship Project 4 (FP4) on ‘Nutritious RTB Foods and Value Added Through Post-Harvest Innovation’.

“In FP4 we paid particular attention to the small and medium enterprises where women play a major role. Stakeholders mapped the impact pathway from research on gari including incremental improvements to the processing technology of small processers, protocols for define product quality and waste management, through to livelihood improvements for cassava producers, processors and consumers. The intention is that different partners will use that pathway to improve collaboration and track impact,” said Dr. Graham Thiele, RTB Program Director.

The workshop report will be available shortly. Key lessons include:

  • While gari is already an excellent food product, we need to enhance it to better provide equitable income, food and nutrition security in the context of population growth and urbanization.
  • We need to identify more clearly the cassava varieties and traits which are suitable for gari and communicate that much better to all those involved in the gari value chain to ensure improved varieties are appropriate for processing.
  • Whilst gari is usually a safe food, there are safety and hygiene issues involved that must be addressed.
  • A dual pronged approach is required to progressively upgrade the capability and equipment of small-scale producers while supporting the larger enterprises as well.
  • Fabricators and processors must be engaged in a process of co-innovation of equipment, and the progressive upgrading of equipment must involve access to microfinance and information as well as technology.
  • There is an important aspect of gender equity linked to adoption, appropriate and affordable equipment for the women involved in small enterprises.
  • All of these changes need empowered organizations, and we need to enhance farmers’ and processors’ voices, so that stakeholders are involved in the process of defining what changes are desirable in gari processing.
  • Above all, a clear case must be made to policy makers in order to allocate attention and resources to implement all proposed changes

RTB Impact Assessment team take stock of progress and plan for Phase II

Assessing the impact of the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas’ (RTB) research and development initiatives is a core part of the program’s work. To take stock of progress on RTB’s impact assessment studies currently underway and identify upcoming opportunities for the program’s second phase, RTB’s Impact Assessment team came together in Boston on July 31.

Representatives from RTB partner centers, including Bioversity International, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the International Potato Center (CIP) presented updates on ongoing RTB related impact assessment activities.

Updates were shared on working papers on strategic research priorities for potato, sweetpotato, cassava, yam and banana.

Potential areas of collaboration for RTB’s second phase were also highlighted: including investigating the global impact of root, tubers and banana crops, modeling and analyzing impacts of sustainable intensification and on rural transformation, and meta-analysis of post-harvest losses for all RTB crops.

The meeting also provided an opportunity to look at potential partnership strategies for future work with MSU and Virginia Tech.

“During the first phase, RTB centers worked together on the strategic assessment of RTB research priorities and advancing critical impact studies for each crop. We need to keep the momentum in the second phase, but we will need to focus on the impact on the system as a whole and beyond the farm-gate. For this, we will need good partnerships to develop and apply appropriate methods,” said Dr. Guy Hareau, Agricultural Economist, International Potato Center.

An enumerator from CIP surveying a C88 potato farmer. Photo: CIP

An enumerator from CIP surveying a C88 potato farmer. Photo: CIP

The meeting followed the CGIAR’s Standing Panel of Impact Assessment (SPIA) meeting from July 29 – 30, during which Dr. Hareau presented the preliminary results of the adoption of the Cooperation 88 (C88) potato variety in China.

Developed through a collaboration between CIP and Yunnan Normal University (YNU) with the goal of breeding a high quality, late blight resistant variety, C88 was named and released as a cultivar in 1996. By 2009, it covered 186,667 hectares and was the most widely grown variety in Yunnan, China.

To measure the impact of the variety, a collaborative effort funded by SPIA and with additional funding from RTB, was undertaken by CIP, Virginia Tech and YNU. The study aims to verify previous adoption estimates of C88 in Yunnan and determine the economic benefits it has brought to consumers and producers in China.

During the SPIA meeting, Dr. Enoch Kikulwe of Bioversity International also presented an overview of RTB’s planned impact assessment activities under the program’s newly developed Flagship Project 5 on ‘Improving Livelihoods at Scale’.

Learn more about RTB’s Impact Assessment work

Improving cassava processing: less energy, higher efficiency and more stable prices

From the RTB 2015 Annual Report

Much of the cassava grown in developing countries is processed to produce starch or flour used as ingredients in an array of food products. As demand for those products grows, the cassava processing industry will play an increasingly important role for farmers and local economies. The CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) has consequently supported research to help starch and flour producers become more efficient.

In many countries, processing is primarily done by small- and medium-scale operations, which frequently suffer inefficiencies – particularly in energy use – that negatively affect their profitability and the environment. A cross-center team of researchers studied cassava processing operations in several countries to identify problems and measures that could be taken to correct them. Their research resulted in guidelines to improve the efficiency of small- and medium-sized processing enterprises, which can in turn ensure higher, stable prices for the smallholders who supply them.

Sample plan for energy efficient flash dryer for cassava. Credit: Francisco Javier Giraldo Cuero (Univalle), Arnaud Chapuis (CIRAD), Martin Alonso Moreno Santander (Univalle), Dominque Dufour (CIAT, CIRAD), Thierry Tran (CIRAD).

Sample plan for energy efficient flash dryer for cassava. Credit: Francisco Javier Giraldo Cuero (Univalle), Arnaud Chapuis (CIRAD), Martin Alonso Moreno Santander (Univalle), Dominque Dufour (CIAT, CIRAD), Thierry Tran (CIRAD).

The study was conducted by a team of researchers from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), CIRAD and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), with support from Univalle and Clayuca in Colombia, Kasetsart University and KMUTT in Thailand, and Thai Nguyen University in Vietnam. The cooperation of industrial partners such as Niji Lukas (Nigeria), Ukaya Farms (Tanzania), Almidones de Sucre (Colombia), CODIPSA (Paraguay) was also essential.

The team determined that because artificial drying is faster than sun drying, it can be a key factor for increasing production capacity. However, artificial drying consumes 70%-75% of the total energy used by a typical cassava starch/flour factory, which means that inefficiencies in the drying process can significantly increase production costs. They determined that ‘flash drying’ is one of the most suitable technologies for the production of cassava starch or flour, and that large-scale flash dryers (200-300 tons of product/day) are highly energy efficient. However, on a small scale (< 50 tons of product/day), flash-dryer energy efficiency is only 40-60%, due to inadequate dryer designs.

The researchers developed a numerical model to simulate flash drying at both small and large scales and investigated ways to improve energy efficiency. Using computer simulations coupled with multi-objective optimization methods, they determined the optimal flash dryer dimensions and operating conditions for different production capacities. They then developed guidelines for the design of energy-efficient flash dryers.

Those guidelines and research findings were shared with key stakeholders from the private and public sector at a workshop in Bangkok, Thailand in December 2015. Workshop participants included representatives of cassava processing factories, equipment manufacturers, universities and government agencies from Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Indonesia, Philippines, Colombia, Nigeria, Tanzania, France and Germany.

Engineers at the Colombian university Univalle are using the guidelines to produce blueprints for an energy-efficient, small-scale flash dryer, a prototype of which is slated to be built in 2016. Other organizations in Indonesia, Myanmar and South Africa have also expressed interest in energy-efficient, small-scale flash dryers. The researchers will continue to share their findings at events in Africa and Latin America.

Root, tuber and banana breeding in Africa shows wide-scale adoption of improved varieties

Crop breeding and the dissemination of improved varieties has been a cornerstone of research for development in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) for decades, and scientists from the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) contributed to research on the impact of this work which is featured in the book Crop Improvement, Adoption, and Impact of Improved Varieties in Food Crops in Sub-Saharan Africa, published in 2015. This ambitious review contains a wealth of information on decades of cassava, yam, potato and sweetpotato improvement in SSA, and it holds lessons for strengthening future efforts to tap the potential of RTB crops for improving food security, nutrition and livelihoods.

The book, which covers the development and distribution of improved varieties of 20 crops in 30 countries, grew out of the ‘Diffusion and Impact of Improved Varieties in Africa’ study funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It confirms the important role that RTB centers have played in strengthening crop improvement in SSA, but also shows that it takes a long time to develop and disseminate improved varieties, which is why RTB has prioritized innovations that accelerate the breeding process.

Read the full story on RTB’s 2015 Annual Report website