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Global cassava coalition calls for support for cassava transformation in Africa

Press release for immediate release

Ahead of the international conference on cassava, the Global Cassava Partnership for the 21st Century (GCP21) has called on policy makers, donors and the international community to support all efforts that will bring about cassava transformation in Africa.

The call is coming at a time when cassava is becoming central to food security of over 600 million people in the developing world, and has become the fourth most important crop after maize, wheat and rice.

Presenting the upcoming conference on cassava to donors and the international community in Cotonou on Thursday, Dr Claude Fauquet, Director of GCP21 said, “despite the key role cassava is playing in Africa’s food security, its productivity had remained low (about 9 tons per hectare), keeping the growers in the trap of poverty. When compared to Asia, cassava productivity in that continent is more than 21 tons per ha—a situation that gives Asia competitive advantage in global cassava trade. Addressing the yield gap demands more funding for cassava research and development from all stakeholders, if truly the world wants to help farmers towards ending hunger and poverty in Africa.”

L-R: Director of the Global Cassava Partnership for the 21 Century, Dr Claude Fauquet; Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Republic of Benin, H.E. Dossouhoui Cossi Gaston; Minister of Higher Education, H.E. Mme Attanasso Marie-Odile; and French Ambassador to the Republic of Benin, H.E. Veronique Brumeaux during the press conference on Cassava Transformation in Africa in Benin.

Dr Fauquet noted that the 11-15 June, 2018 conference to be held in Cotonou with the theme ‘Cassava Transformation in Africa’, is one of the ways the GCP21 is contributing towards the transformation of the root crop.

He called for participation of all stakeholders, emphasizing that the conference would provide a unique opportunity for donors, investors, and policy makers to see and access the latest innovations and discoveries in the cassava sector.

The French Ambassador to the Republic of Benin, H.E. Veronique Brumeaux, who hosted the press conference said the conference was timely and would go a long way to address the constraints of cassava production while at the same time proffering opportunities for investors and farmers alike to harness new innovations from the research community.

The ambassador’s position was echoed by the Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Republic of Benin, H.E. Dossouhoui Cossi Gaston, while underscoring the importance of cassava to Benin and Africa in general. He said the importance of cassava would continue to increase as its consumption per capita was high and the root crop is resilient to climate change.

Cassava is a critical source of food security for millions throughout developing countries. Photo H.Holmes/RTB

The Minister of Higher Education, H.E. Mme Attanasso Marie-Odile said the Republic of Benin is proud to host the conference. She noted that cassava’s development and transformation would offer opportunities for youth engagement which the country and other African countries could tap.

Invited participants to the press conference included representatives of the embassies of France, United Kingdom, Belgium, Switzerland, Brazil, Holland, Germany, Japan, Canada, United States, and European Union. Others were representatives of development agencies: AfDB, USAID, JICA, GIZ, AFD, EU, UNDP, and FAO.

This year’s conference is being organized by GCP21, in collaboration with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), National Institute of Agricultural Research of Benin (INRAB), Faculte des Sciences Agronomique – Universite Abomey-Calavi (FAS-AUC). Other supporting institutions are: The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Development Bank (AfDB); Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research (WECARD), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB), International Center for Agricultural Development (CIRAD), and the Institute for Research & Development (IRD).

For more information, please contact:
Claude Fauquet, Director of GCP21, c.fauquet@cgiar.org 
Godwin Atser, Conference Communication Coordinator, g.atser@cgiar.org 

Spotlight on scaling agricultural technologies

The CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) has ambitious targets to improve the lives of millions of men and women who depend on root, tuber and banana crops by 2022. Achieving those targets means focusing on the most promising technologies and innovations. And it means linking these innovations with the tools and approaches that can take them to scale.

As RTB commences its second phase, it is opportune to shine a spotlight on our approaches to scaling and how they enhance the innovations developed through the program that have the potential to be adopted by millions.

Towards this, RTB held a World Café style event on 10 March in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to match scalable technologies with approaches and tools for scaling, while increasing participants’ understanding of both the technologies and scaling approaches.

Selected RTB program targets by 2022. All program targets align with the SDGs (Click to enlarge)

The event brought together researchers from across RTB’s five program participant centers – the International Potato Center (CIP), the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Bioversity International and Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD) – along with donor representatives, Tanzanian national partners, and other partners including Wageningen University and the Natural Resources Institute.

‘Scalable technologies’ are innovations that have resulted from RTB research and which are either already adopted by farmers or other users, or will be adopted over the next three years. Additionally, the technology must have – or will have – a large number of beneficiaries. An outstanding example of a scalable technology is the orange fleshed sweetpotato for health and nutrition improvement, already adopted by over 2 million households, for which three CIP scientists were awarded the prestigious World Food Prize in 2016.

During the World Café, participants circulated among posters of their choice in small group discussions, rotating every 15 minutes and sharing their thoughts on what might be the ‘roadblocks’ or ‘accelerators’ to scaling for each innovation.

Participants rotated to a new poster every 15 mins. Each poster could have a maximum of 10 visitors at any one time to encourage effective conversations. Photo H.Holmes/RTB

Posters were divided in the three categories throughout the day: 1) scalable technologies for varieties and seed, 2) scalable technologies for resilient cropping, postharvest and nutrition and sustainable intensification, and 3) approaches and tools for scaling, innovation and enhancing gender relevance.

“The ‘speed-dating’ between RTB’s natural and social scientists led to new ideas on how to further improve the scaling of RTB innovations,” reflects Dr. Marc Schut, IITA Social Scientist and leader of RTB’s Flagship Project 5 on Improved Livelihoods at Scale.

During the event, several scientists commented that the exercise had changed their perceptions of the complexity of the science surrounding scaling and what the process entails, along with a greater awareness of the importance of considering scaling from the outset of a project.

Likewise, social scientists working on scaling of innovations also shared that the small-group discussions led to ideas of how the approaches to scaling could be tailored to better suit certain technologies.

Participants shared factors that could act as ‘roadblocks’ and ‘accelerators’ to the scaling of technologies presented in categories 1 and 2. Photo H.Holmes/RTB

For Juma Kayeke, an agronomist from the Tanzanian Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) based in the region of Mbeya, the workshop provided exposure to new technologies and approaches, and the chance to further connect with partners.

“It was so valuable to interact with people from different backgrounds, specializations, research areas and crops… In the tools and approaches for scaling category, I was particularly interested in the decision support tools, because sometimes when we are talking with farmers and extension officers they get very bound to what they should do at specific times in the farming cycle. If they could have a support tool to enable make decisions about what actions to take at what times, that would be a big breakthrough,” he added.

One technology that stood out on the day to Schut was the AdiosMacho pesticide developed by CIP, which attracts and kills male potato tuber moth species, reducing the population of the pest.

“The scaling of RTB innovations requires focused strategies and human and financial resource investments, and this was clearly shown in the AdiosMacho technology. AdiosMacho evolved from a research product towards a commercial product, and together with the public and private sector roadblocks have been systematically addressing. We need to learn from these cases to accelerate the scaling of other RTB innovations,” he explained.

Examples of ‘roadblocks’ and ‘accelerators’ to scaling of the AdiosMacho technology presented in the poster. (Click to enlarge)

RTB’s Flagship Project 5 will build on the World Café with a repository of scalable RTB innovations, and seek to accelerate scaling, by sharing tools and approaches with projects and scientists in the other RTB Flagships, for sustainable development impacts.

Posters of scalable technologies and of tools and approaches for scaling are available for download from the event page.

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.

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.

Six steps forward for root and tuber crops

Graham Thiele, Program Director, CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) shares his top six highlights from the first World Congress on Root and Tuber Crops, January 18 – 22, Nanning, China.

With root and tuber crops providing food for than 2.2 billion million people around the globe, it is no surprise that our efforts to improve these crops are so broad and geographically dispersed. The first World Congress on Root and Tuber Crops, which has just wrapped up in Nanning, China, brought together hundreds of experts working on various areas in the value chain and  is a special forum to share advances across all our crops.

This is one of the reasons why RTB is so pleased to support the International Society for Tropical Root Crops (ISTRC) and Global Cassava Partnership for the 21st Century (GCP21) as co-organizers. For me, it was also great to see so many friends and colleagues in the roots and tubers community and catch up on progress. There is so much to report back, but I do have a few highlights from the week which particularly struck me to share.

Omics and beyond

It’s astonishing the progress made with understanding the genetic makeup of root and tuber crops and the different pathways from genes to trait expression which the new science of ‘omics’ has made possible. It was impressive to see the progress made by our Chinese colleagues, including a lively presentation from Songbi Chen of the Tropical Crops Genetic Resources Institute of the Chinese Academy of Tropical Agricultural Sciences (CATAS) on the application of proteomics cassava breeding to understand how we could improve photosynthetic efficiency and starch accumulation in roots, thus potentially increasing their dry matter content.

A CIAT researcher examines cassava buds in the lab. Photo: N.Palmer/CIAT

A CIAT researcher examines cassava buds in the lab. Photo: N.Palmer/CIAT

Cassava as animal feed

I knew that cassava is a potential feed for livestock but I hadn’t understood that it actually has some special advantages. The presentation from Uthai Kanto, Associate Professor at Kasetsart University, and of the Thai Tapioca Development Institute (TTDI) explained how the fermentation and slight acidity of cassava chips inhibits mycotoxins when it used as a feed. Additionally the presence of low and non-toxic levels of cyanide even gives immunity to disease. These factors mean it’s a healthier alternative feed ingredient for livestock compared to maize, with improved weight gain for the animals although it does need a bit of enrichment with a protein source. This is an important finding for RTB supported work in utilization of cassava peel as animal feed.

Orange-Fleshed Sweetpotato farmers in Rwanda. Photo: S.Quinn/CIP

Orange-Fleshed Sweetpotato farmers in Rwanda. Photo: S.Quinn/CIP

Policy change promotes sweetpotato

Sweetpotato and other roots and tubers are often neglected crops. So it was very encouraging to learn from Jan Low of the International Potato Center (CIP) that because of advocacy and progress in research through the SASHA and SUSTAIN projects implemented by CIP, Rwanda has included in recent policy documents the promotion of biofortified foods, and in three districts (Muhanga, Gakeneke and Rulindo) local governments have included sweetpotato as a priority crop as part of their efforts to fight micronutrient malnutrition and improve the diversification of diets. For sure there are lessons here for other root, tuber and banana crops.

 

Cassava seed system in Uganda

Anthony Pariyo of the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) of Uganda explained there has been good progress made towards developing a sustainable seed system for cassava in Uganda, including a functional public-private partnership with BioCrops providing 12,000 plants from bioculture and a network of 47 seed entrepreneurs selling seed to farmers. There are some potential lessons here for a new RTB project on cassava seed systems which is getting underway in Nigeria.

Pruning buys time for cassava

Cassava roots deteriorate quickly after harvest, posing a significant challenge for farmers and processors. Harriet Muyinza of NARO took part in an exchange visit to the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Colombia sponsored by the RTB-ENDURE project, during which she applied a cassava pruning technique that she learned during the exchange in field trials in Uganda. The results are very promising, showing that with one of the varieties called Tim Tim, pruning reduced post-harvest deterioration to below 20%, compared to 70% without pruning. This suggests that pruning could be effective for farmers to reduce storage loss and have more time to transport their crop to market.

Brown streak disease resistance

Morag Ferguson from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) reported the surprising finding that resistance to cassava brown streak disease, previously thought to have come from East Africa, was actually derived from a West African landrace. This, together with their location of molecular markers associated with the genetic inheritance of resistance should importantly enable preemptive breeding against brown streak disease in West Africa. This could be extremely important given that the disease is spreading west from its origin on the coast of Tanzania and potentially affecting the rest of the continent.

Graham Thiele, RTB Program Director, presents the program's priority assessment plans during the Congress. Photo: G.Smith/CIAT

Graham Thiele, RTB Program Director, summarizes the findings of the program’s priority assessment during the Congress. Photo: G.Smith/CIAT

I also took the opportunity to present two plenary sessions – the first updating the progress in RTB and giving a closer look at our work on improving climate change resilience, and the second summarizing the findings of the RTB priority assessment. This assessment kicked off at the GCP21 in 2013 and so it was very appropriate to present a wrap up in China.

New technologies make cassava processing more efficient and sustainable

As the global cassava industry continues to grow, new processing technologies are helping factories to reduce energy losses.

The farming and post-harvest processing of cassava is a major economic activity throughout much of South-East Asia, Africa and Latin America.

In Africa and Latin America, cassava is a staple food for 500 million people and is increasingly processed into ready-to-cook or ready-to-eat products. Demand for these foods is rising as a result of changing expectations by growing middle-class consumers and urban populations.

In South-East Asia cassava processing for starch in particular is a major market driver, with Thailand being the world’s largest exporter of cassava products, including starch and chips.

In many countries, the processing of cassava takes place in small- and medium-scale factories where process inefficiencies, in particular energy losses, are significant and impact on both production costs and the environment.

Considering the high potential for growth of the cassava industry, driven by growing populations and economic development, it is critical to optimize cassava processing technologies to ensure the industry progresses in a sustainable manner.

Cassava processing for starch in Vietnam. Photo by G. Smith/CIAT

Cassava processing for starch in Vietnam. Photo: G. Smith/CIAT

To improve cassava processing technologies, the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) conducted a benchmarking study of cassava starch and flour technologies in several countries, as part of the larger 2013-2015 project “Driving livelihood improvements through demand-oriented interventions for competitive production and processing of roots, tubers and bananas”.

The study was conducted by a team from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture and CIRAD with support from Univalle and Clayuca in Colombia, Kasetsart University and KMUTT in Thailand, and Thai Nguyen University in Vietnam.

Findings confirmed that artificial drying of cassava is faster than sun drying and hence a key factor to increase the production capacity of factories. However, research shows that artificial drying represents 70-75% of the total energy used by a typical cassava starch factory, making it a key area to focus on improving energy efficiencies.

‘Flash drying’, the most suitable type of drying for cassava starch and flours, is efficient at large-scales, with 80-90% energy efficiency. However, at small-scales (less than 50 tons of product per day) where the majority of cassava processing occurs, energy efficiency is only 40-60% due to inadequate dryer designs.

Sun drying, as seen here in Vietnam, is less commonly used in favor of artificial 'flash drying'. Photo N.Palmer/CIAT

Sun drying, as seen here in Vietnam, is less commonly used in favor of artificial ‘flash drying’. Photo: N.Palmer/CIAT

To develop improved drying technologies to make the process more efficient and environmentally sustainable, the project launched a subsequent study using computer-based simulations of the flash drying operation that proved such improvements to small-scale dryers are possible.

A numerical model of flash drying to simulate and compare the drying process at small and large scales was developed, followed by methods to determine the optimum dimensions and operating conditions of flash dryers for different production capacities.

Critically, this led to the development of guidelines to design energy-efficient flash dryers that can help cassava factories or equipment manufacturers reduce their energy losses.

These innovations are now available to interested stakeholders in the cassava processing industry worldwide.

To share findings from the project with key stakeholders from the private and public sector, including cassava processing factories, equipment manufacturers, universities and government agencies, a workshop was held in Bangkok, Thailand from 2 – 4 December, 2015.

The workshop brought together participants from countries including Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Indonesia, Philippines, Colombia, Nigeria, Tanzania, France and Germany, providing a valuable opportunity for networking and planning future collaborations on the development of the cassava industry.

Processed snack foods made using cassava starch. Photo: G.Smith/CIAT

Processed snack foods made using cassava starch. Photo: G.Smith/CIAT

The event was organized by CIRAD, Kasetsart University and Biotec, with financial support from RTB, SEA-EU-NET and the Embassy of France in Thailand.

The dissemination of the project’s findings will continue through capacity building events in other regions (Latin America, Africa) and the design and construction of a prototype flash dryer based on the newly developed guidelines for energy efficiency.

Read more

Learn more about the outcomes of the workshop and the project in the workshop report.

Access the project’s research findings and numerical models in the recently published (July 2016) paper, ‘Pneumatic Drying of Cassava Starch: Numerical Analysis and Guidelines for the Design of Efficient Small-Scale Dryers‘, published in the journal, Drying Technology: An International Journal.

Queen’s Anniversary Prize for ground-breaking work on cassava awarded to RTB partner, NRI

World-leading research and development on cassava by the Natural Resources Institute of the University of Greenwich (NRI) has been honored with a prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is to present the university with a silver gilt medallion and prize-winner’s certificate during a special reception at Buckingham Palace next year.

The prize recognizes NRI’s research and development in the field of cassava, the tropical root crop predominantly grown by smallholder farmers in the developing world, especially in Africa, where it is an important staple food for millions.

Cassava faces a number of challenges: it is vulnerable to attack by pests and virus diseases and faces obstacles to market access, storage and handling issues and a short shelf-life. It has also received less investment than other crops resulting in significant gaps in knowledge.

The CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) began working with NRI in 2013 on a key project called ‘Driving livelihood improvements through demand-oriented interventions for competitive production and processing of cassava’. The project largely focusses on sub-Saharan African countries, which is a key region for NRI’s work on cassava.

Men and women work together to process cassava in Benin. Photo by  D.Dufour/RTB

Men and women work together to process cassava in Benin. Photo by D.Dufour/RTB

Research included analyzing and improving cassava peeling technologies to reduce time, energy and product losses for cassava processors, who are mainly women, in countries including Nigeria. Two key technologies used by smallholder farmers in Tanzania for drying cassava peels were also evaluated, leading to recommendations on how to improve the efficiency of the process for farmers.

Studies to understand consumer preferences have also been carried out to assess how new processing technologies and improved cassava varieties may impact key cassava products like gari and fufu. Qualitative research also analyzed how men and women perceive and rate the quality of processed cassava products.

The project ‘Driving livelihood improvements through demand-oriented interventions for competitive production and processing of cassava’ is funded by RTB and involves partners including the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Cirad, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and of course, NRI.

RTB Program Director, Graham Thiele, commented that NRI “is a strategic partner for RTB in post-harvest innovation and we are absolutely delighted with the wonderful news and well earned recognition for path-breaking research.”

Advancements in cassava research will also be a key feature at the upcoming World Congress on Root and Tuber Crops, due to take place in Nanning, Guangxi, China, from 18 – 22 January 2016. The Congress will bring together the world’s foremost experts in the field, including representatives from NRI, RTB, CIAT, IITA and Cirad, to share advice, review scientific progress, and identify and set priorities for future research, along with raising awareness of the global importance of root and tuber crops like cassava.

Read the award announcement on the NRI website.

A year in review: Highlights from the RTB Annual Meeting 2015

The Annual Review and Planning Meeting of the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) took place last week from 8 – 10 December, 2015 in Lima, Peru.

The event was hosted by the program’s lead center, the International Potato Center (CIP), and brought together over 50 researchers from the five program partner centers – the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Bioversity International, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, CIRAD and CIP – along with colleagues from other partners including Florida State University and Wageningen University. A representative from a key RTB donor, USAID, also attended the event to share in this year’s highlights.

23573958681_4474c2e3e5_o_CROPOver three days, participants reported on highlights and key achievements from the program’s six research themes, which led to enthusiastic and constructive discussion about the results and next steps for the program in 2016. The collegial and dynamic atmosphere set a positive tone for the year ahead as RTB prepares to undergo a significant shift away from research ‘themes’ to ‘flagship projects’ in 2016.

Selected highlights from the Annual Meeting:

Theme 1 – Unlocking the value and use potential of genetic resources

  • Through complementary funding, RTB has enabled the application of next generation sequencing to change our understanding of genetic diversity, genetic resource collections and breeding populations of root, tuber and banana crops.
  • In several crops, including potato and cassava, we are gaining an understanding of the identity of crop varieties, the status of duplication and misidentifications. This is enabling a much higher level of quality control of information on germplasm and breeding populations to assist with more efficient use of RTB resources.

Theme 2 – Accelerating the development and selection of varieties with higher, more stable yield and added value

  • Metabolomics has been successfully applied to banana, potato, and yam to identify differences between genotypes and treatments.
  • DNA sequencing could separate genepools in cassava based on origin. Sequencing data has proven useful to improve the cassava genome. Further gene characterization raises the question of perhaps using genome editing to reduce cyanide levels in cassava.
  • Genome-Wide Association Studies have applied in banana for the first time, and have identified candidate genes for seedlessness.
  • A ‘Trait Observation Network’ to close potato yield gaps in Africa and Asia started this year and involves extensive G x E phenotyping for drought, late blight, virus resistance, and maturity of already genotyped breeding panels.
  • Shovelomics and other root phenotyping methods to analyze root architecture in relation to drought stress shows potential for screening genotypes at early development stages, as root weight and root dry matter weight is correlated with sweetpotato storage root yields.

Theme 3 – Managing priority pests and diseases

  • Results of work on degenerative diseases show that positive selection, which involves visually identifying and selecting only symptomless plants as the seed source for the next generation, can be as effective as the use of clean seed where selection can be done accurately.
  • Pest Risk Analysis along an altitude gradient was used as a proxy for climate change, and revealed that some diseases have higher incidence at lower altitude, and some have higher incidence at lower levels. Hence, climate change is expected to have some positive and negative effects.
  • Crop land connectivity was used to assess risk for invasion and saturation by pathogens and pests, and showed that the Great Lakes region in East Africa has the highest threat for RTB crops combined.
  • An interdisciplinary Banana Bunchy Top Disease Alliance was set up, and practicable models, tools and procedures for containment and recovery were developed.
  • Single Diseased Stem Removal has been found to be a very effective and farmer-friendly method for controlling Banana Xanthomonas Wilt.
  • A successful Private-Public Partnership has been set up to reduce pesticide use to control Potato Tube Moth through the development of a pheromone-based control strategy that attracts and kills the pest.

Theme 4 – Making available low-cost, high quality planting material for farmers

  • A conceptual framework was developed to analyze RTB seed systems, extract lessons and generate recommendations for improving the design and implementation of future interventions.
  • Quality Declared Quality Planting Materials as an alternative to formal certification is a lower cost and more feasible opportunity for seed system with RTB crops where seed is typically bulky and/or perishable.
  • A key message of the research in this theme was that understanding gender roles in seed systems is critical for positive impact.
  • How can positive selection of seed become adopted as more routine practice in improved seed system?
  • A framework for understanding availability, access and use of quality seed  has been developed and specific research questions have been proposed around this linked to a series of case studies.

 At the end of the first day, CIP hosted an Open House afternoon, showcasing the center’s work in areas including a demonstration of remote sensing of a potato field using a drone and in-house software to collect and analyze the data, and an introduction to the Genebank’s collection of in vitro germplasm of potato, sweetpotato and Andean roots and tubers.

Day two of the meeting covered the highlights from Themes 5 and 6:

 Theme 5 – Developing tools for more productive, ecologically robust cropping systems

  • Developing ability to provide targeted recommendations about the next steps for cropping systems improvement, as a function of a farm’s current status (technology limited, resources limited, decision limited).
  • Providing recommendations that can be used by farmers immediately for more robust and profitable cropping systems.
  • Support for farmer soil management through careful analysis of nutrient balances shows promise for smallholder banana production.

Theme 6 – Promoting post-harvest technologies, value chains, and market opportunities

  • Sensory tasting for cassava should be product specific. For example, Gari can be eaten dry, as a paste, in porridge etc. When you want to evaluate the acceptability of Gari you have to decide on one of the products.
  • Much work has gone in to improving drying technologies and there is evidence that some technologies are preferred more than others, such as Cabinet driers in Tanzania.
  • Interlinkages with other projects are building on work that has already been done, e.g. RTB-ENDURE project is testing improved clones in development of value chains in Uganda.
  • Climate change effects: research has shown that the production of bitter alkaloids in the potato tuber increases with temperature making them unacceptable, this has strong implications for  climate change in potato

The meeting concluded with a smaller two-day workshop on 11-12 December to refine the program’s shift away from research ‘themes’ to a new structure based on five ‘flagship projects’ in 2016. More detail about RTB’s new flagship projects will be coming soon.


What’s in your noodle soup?

You may never have heard of it before. A globetrotting crop by all accounts, it’s thought to have been introduced into Southeast Asia in the Philippines from Mexico in the 19th Century.

As our diet becomes ever more complex, cassava – or tapioca – a root crop like sweetpotato originally from South America, has been transformed far from it’s center of origin and today in Asia, can be found in everything from noodles to sweeteners, street food snacks, industrial products, pharmaceutical products, even biofuel.

It is still eaten as a staple crop in the region, steamed or boiled and eaten as a carbohydrate staple, especially in mountainous areas where few other crops grow. But in various forms including starch, root and tuber crops supply an increasingly diverse and lucrative market.

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In Asia, cassava has been transformed into everything from noodles to sweeteners. In Hanoi, it is a popular ingredient in urban street food. Photo: G.Smith / CIAT

Asia is now the world’s largest trader of cassava and cassava products. Farmers cultivate cassava on their small plots of land because they do not have to spend a lot of time looking after it, and it brings in a good income, and it is relatively climate-hardy: it can grow well despite low rainfall, poor soil fertility and temperature increases.

Global demand in the carbohydrate market for cassava is on the rise, driving a billion-dollar industry. This burgeoning market represents a huge opportunity for poor smallholder farmers to earn a better income from a crop which requires little investment and can grow on very poor soil.

Driving a billion-dollar industry

Yet the food security agenda in Asia-Pacific is dominated by grain crops, rice and wheat, despite the fact that cassava – and other root and tuber crops like potato, sweetpotato – are a staple food for poor farming households, especially among ethnic minorities.

Root and tuber crops are directly consumed in a variety of traditional fresh and processed foods. They also play an increasing important role as a source of income – both in urban fresh markets and from processing in food and non-food industries – enabling families to buy other sources of food.

Opportunities for both women and men to gain from these value chains could be better understood, and research is underway to investigate how poorer smallholder farmers can benefit most. The FoodSTART+ initiative, part of the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas, to be launched in Asia in early 2016, is one such example.

When disaster strikes

The crop is grown in a rapidly and dramatically changing environment, characterized by climate change, population pressure, fast changing land use patterns, low input use and low soil fertility, driving the emergence of new pests and diseases and presenting new challenges.

But root and tuber crops are considered buffer crops when disasters like typhoons strike or during acute food scarcity following extreme weather events. Farmers turn to root and tuber crops for an income, or to provide immediate food.

Funded by the European Union through IFAD, the FoodSTART+ project will assess possibilities for poor communities to improve their food security, nutrition, and income earning opportunities by tapping into root and tuber value chains in China, India, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and Vietnam. CIAT’s work in Asia on root and tuber crops spans decades to improve food security in the region.

This new project is part of a wider strategic research initiative to investigate urban and informal markets, distribution dynamics and gender relations to understand rapidly changing food supply chains in Asia.

Next year there will be a major focus on root and tuber crops in the region, during the World Congress on Root and Tuber Crops in Nanning, China, January 18-22.

Read the original story by Georgina Smith on the International Center for Tropical Agriculture website.

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