Tag Archives: gender

‘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

Listening to what women don’t say

The field work mentioned in this blog was part of the IITA led Cassava Monitoring Survey project, funded by institutions including the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tuber and Bananas. Read the full results of the survey in the Cassava Monitoring Survey report

By Jeff Bentley for AgroInsight.

What women don’t say can be as important as what they do say. As I learned recently in Nigeria.

Cassava is a crop that is native to the Amazon Basin, but spread in early colonial times to much of tropical Africa. The hardy cassava is a short, woody shrub that can live for several years, thanks to its large roots which absorb water and nutrients, which helps the plant to survive the dry season.

Villagers love cassava because of its flexibility. People can harvest the plants one or few at a time, as the household needs food. But cassava can also be tricky. Once the roots are harvested they are fairly perishable and should be prepared into food fairly soon.

Women produce gari in Nigeria. Photo courtesy of AgroInsight

Women producing gari in Nigeria. Photo courtesy of AgroInsight

During a recent fieldwork sponsored by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), we found that, in Southwest and North Nigeria, men grow much of the cassava and women detoxify it by making it into several products, especially one called gari. To make gari, women peel huge piles of roots, one at a time, with a kitchen knife. Then the roots are grated in little motorized grills, and the mash is fermented in sacks, and then the moisture is squeezed out. Men may help with the grating and pressing out the moisture (often for a small fee). Then the women toast the mash into gari on a metal pan over a hot wood fire, continuously stirring the mash with a wooden paddle. The women also collect the firewood. Women can sell gari in village markets to buyers, usually women, who bulk the gari and take it to the cities.

To get cassava to transform into gari, Nigerian women use several strategies. They grow some cassava; they get some from their husbands and they can buy roots in the village. In the photo, a man sells a motorcycle load of cassava to a neighbor who will process it. Within four to five days women can turn the cassava into a bit of cash—which they can spend or keep.

In the villages across Nigeria my colleagues and I interviewed the men and the women separately. Some of the men told us that, among other things, they needed what they called “ready markets,” meaning that the men wanted to be able to sell their cassava  roots raw, in local markets, for a profit.

unloading cassava from motorcycleIn separate meetings, the women had plenty to say, but they never mentioned markets. On the other hand, the women wanted cassava that was easier to peel.

If we had interviewed men and women together, the women would not have bothered to contradict the men, when they asked for better markets for cassava.

The women did not ask for a ready market for cassava, because they already have one. They can always carry a basin full of gari down to the village market and sell it. Even landless women can buy cassava and transform it to make a living, working at home.

Men and women may even have conflicting interests. Higher prices for raw roots might benefit men, but could even harm the women, who buy the roots as raw material to make traditional foods like gari, fufu (with the consistency of mashed potatoes) and abacha (almost a kind of noodle).

In Nigeria, women are quietly feeding the nation; they are happy with the market just the way it is. That is why women don’t ask for ready markets. What women don’t say can be as important as what they do say. To learn women’s specific views and perspectives, we were reminded one more time that it is important to interview men and women in separate groups.

Read the original post on the AgroInsight website.

Understanding gender roles in Uganda’s potato and cooking banana value chains

In Uganda, gender roles in production, processing and marketing of root, tuber and banana crops are complex. Key decisions on production and marketing are often made by men, although women majorly provide labor at crucial stages of production. In the example of potato production and marketing in eastern Uganda, though women are responsible for key production processes, men primarily control harvesting and marketing of the crop. Men also tend to dominate wholesale trade while women are in charge of retailing.

As innovations, including in postharvest and marketing, become more available to farmers, men tend to take over responsibilities for roles that might have previously been largely the domain of women. Men are also likely to adopt new technologies faster than women, especially if they are capital intensive, and studies show that social norms in Uganda may also prevent women from taking up new technologies. For example, women may not have equitable access to training, inputs like land and farming equipment as well as capital which are critical to the adoption of new technologies. Additionally, women may not be empowered to make investment decisions at household level.


In Uganda, the key decisions on production and marketing of root, tuber and banana crops are usually made by men. Photo by S.Quinn/CIP

This implies that if gender issues are not taken into account, interventions aiming at value chain development may preclude women from taking full advantage of emerging market opportunities, or even affect them negatively. It is therefore necessary that gender empowerment is promoted in the effort to develop and strengthen root tuber and banana value chains.

The ‘Expanding utilization of roots, tubers and bananas and reducing their postharvest losses’ (RTB-ENDURE) project prioritizes gender mainstreaming so as to develop gender sensitive interventions. As such, a Gender Action Plan (GAP) was developed by the gender team to ensure that men and women benefit equitably from the project interventions. In execution of the GAP, two situational analyses of the potato and cooking banana value chains in Uganda were recently conducted.

Here we highlight key findings of these studies:


  • RTB-ENDURE is testing and validating potato storage

    Female farmers often have limited control over income from potato sales. Photo by S.Quinn/CIP

    technologies. Female farmers are more concerned than men about using poor quality seed which results in poor quality ware potatoes that are more difficult to store and market due to high perishability. Women are responsible for producing and storing seed within households, yet report they are rarely if ever targeted by training on good agronomic practices. Therefore, there is need to promote training of women in this area, as well as selecting them to host demonstration trials where applicable.

  • Due to unequal power relationships within households, men often decide how much, where and whom to sell to, as well as how to use income from potato often without consulting women. Women also report that gender norms designated potato as a men’s crop, implying that women who try to sell potato on their own without their husbands are viewed with suspicion. In some cases, traders raise the price of seed potato and lower the price of ware potato if female farmers are the ones buying or selling, respectively. Women shared that this may deter them from benefiting from higher sales and income from stored potato.
  • Both men and women report that limited access to financial services is a key hindrance to potato production. However, female farmers are particularly affected since poor access to credit is coupled with limited control over income from potato sales. Therefore, they find difficult to timely access inputs like fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and farming tools leading to low yields and hıgh postharvest losses. Both men and women mentioned the need for training in savings and credit management as well as better linkages to Micro Finance Institutions and other credit providers.
Potato traders in Uganda. Photo by S.Quinn/CIP

In Uganda potato is viewed as a men’s crop. Women who sell potato on their own without their husbands are often viewed with suspicion. Photo by S.Quinn/CIP

  • Female traders incur higher postharvest losses since improved storage facilities are not available and, moreover, they are often forced to procure lower quality potato due to capital constraints. This implies that they have a very narrow marketing window before their potato spoil, and thus highly welcome the effort for improving the postharvest management. However, the nature of their trade (retail) and low representation in management positions may prevent them to fully benefit.


  • Female farmers face major challenges in accessing production equipment and hired labor, particularly in peak production seasons. They also decry exclusion from planning and budgeting for proceeds from banana sales as a major problem since men exclude them from marketing. Suggested solutions include access to financing mechanisms to procure quality equipment and agro-inputs as well as sensitization of couples on joint visioning and planning for the family.
  • Male farmers mentioned that brokers obstruct direct interaction between producers and traders or final buyers. As a result, farmers are forced to trade at local level. Furthermore, they face seasonal price fluctuations and at times they completely fail to sell their produce. Suggested solutions included linkage to reliable traders/markets, strengthened dialogue with the final buyers, formation of marketing groups and linking such groups to buyers who purchase by weight.

    Female banana farmers face challenges in accessing production equipment and hired labor. Photo by S.Quinn/CIP


  • The perennial nature of the crop makes loan providers averse to providing credit, and delays in approval of loans prevent farmers from procuring required inputs on time. The proposed strategies include linkages to credit providers who are willing to design agricultural friendly loan packages, including women friendly loan products.
  • Female traders face constraints related to mobility. Banana trade requires inspection of banana gardens and selection of marketable bunches. These activities are challenging for women who mostly depend on men for this. Negotiating with final buyers in major cities requires transportation that is often out of reach for women.

Because women accept these gender inequalities as the way things have always been, the solutions they suggested focused mostly on addressing their practical gender needs – such as better knowledge of potato seed storage to reduce problems they may encounter with their husbands in case the stored seed does not sprout well.

However, the gender strategies proposed for both crops seek to address both practical gender needs and strategic gender interests. For example, it is also clear that women are underrepresented in the management of potato associations but simply electing women into leadership positions that do not involve strategic decision making may not be effective. Women need to be able to meet their strategic gender interests and this may require training on management and negotiation skills.

These reports, besides guiding the implementation of RTB-ENDURE to ensure that the proposed innovations benefit both men and women, also contain important lessons for researchers and policy makers working in the postharvest domain in Uganda and other sub Saharan African countries.

RTB-ENDURE is a three-year initiative (2014-2016) implemented by the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas that is funded by the European Union with technical support from IFAD.

RTB and PIM research featured at CGIAR gender research training with Penn State

Research and lessons learned from a collaboration between the CGIAR Research Programs on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB), and Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM) to produce gender-sensitive tools to make value chain interventions more gender responsive have been shared during a training workshop for CGIAR gender research experts.

Hosted by Pennsylvania State University, the three-week Gender Research & Integrated Training Workshop (7 – 24 June, 2016) is part of a series of initiatives by the CGIAR Gender and Agriculture Research Network in partnership with Penn State to enhance the quality of CGIAR gender research.

The workshop focused on topics including the historical context of gender and agriculture science, connecting social theories to agricultural research and designing high-quality research plans.

“The purpose of this workshop is prepare the new generation of CGIAR gender research leaders, improving skills to produce high quality research across centers and CGIAR Research Programs.  Being part of this team is an honor and a great learning experience, but also a great responsibility since we are called to ensure the gender research in our centers,” explained Cecilia Turin, a postdoctoral researcher with the International Potato Center (CIP) working on climate change adaptation and gender, who attended the workshop. Cecilia’s gender research focuses on understanding the impact of agricultural innovations in household decision making and labor allocation and gendered knowledge systems.

As part of the program Andre Devaux, Regional Director for LAC and Strategic Leader at CIP, presented the experiences of the RTB and PIM research team in developing a guide for integrating gender into participatory market chain approaches, focusing on the case of Papa Andina with the IssAndes project in Peru.

pub coverThe guide, entitled ‘Technology for Men and Women: Recommendations to reinforce gender mainstreaming in agricultural technology innovation processes for food security’, was recommended as one of the key reading materials during the course.

Co-financed by RTB and PIM, the guide provides recommendations for designing and implementing technology diffusion initiatives with a gender perspective in order to help development practitioners design and disseminate agricultural technologies that will be adopted by and benefit both men and women.

“I became proud of being a gender researcher at CGIAR, which was the most valuable aspect of this course,” said Nozomi Kawaruzaka, a postdoctoral fellow with RTB who is working on various collaborative projects with CIP and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

Nozomi’s work focuses on understanding gender relations and gendered agency, gendered processes of agricultural innovation and the social dimensions of food insecurity and under-nutrition.

“Leland Glenna’s lecture on philosophies and Processes of Science inspired me. The concepts and beliefs we discuss in his class, such as technological determinism, scientism, category errors, neoliberalism, ecological fallacy and hierarchy of needs, helped me to recognize how far I am from a vast majority of scientists at CGIAR,” she explained.

Workshop participants gather at the end of the first week of the GRIT Workshop at Penn State, USA. Photo: CGIAR Gender and Agriculture Research Network.

Workshop participants gather at the end of the first week of the GRIT Workshop at Penn State, USA. Photo: CGIAR Gender and Agriculture Research Network.

“At the same time, I came to believe that qualitative social science research can challenge those dominant thoughts and thereby contribute to transforming agricultural research for social equality,” added Nozomi, who along with her cohort of accepted participants from varied CGIAR Centers and Research Programs will return for a further training workshop at Penn State in 2017.

Participants were also paired with a mentor for the duration of the training, until 2017.

“We learned from Jacqui Ashby (leader of the CGIAR Gender Network) the importance of mentorship at this stage of our careers. Professor Carolyn Sachs, coordinator of this training program and leader of Gender Studies in Penn State is my mentor, and it is a privilege connecting with a mentor of such wingspan,” said Cecilia.

“We also learned the need to incorporate gender and feminist approaches to improve gender research quality. Professor Sachs said she cannot think of gender research without the connection to gender and feminist theory. Mentorship on gender also ensures the connection with the gender and feminist approaches, frameworks that enlighten the gender research and analysis,” she added.

The training was preceded by the inaugural Gender, Agriculture and Environment Initiative (GAEI) Symposium also at Penn State, which brought together a network of scholars who conduct research and evidence-based outreach on areas including sustainable agriculture, gender and climate change, gender and value chains, and gender-integrated research methods.

Both events not only provided capacity building for the scientists, but also an opportunity for CGIAR postdoctoral researchers to get to know each other and create an internal network of support and partnership, allowing for more opportunities for mentorship and collaboration.

Learn more about Penn State University’s partnership with the CGIAR Gender and Agriculture Research Network.

Leave no one behind: Reflections on RTB’s participations at GCARD3

Sara Quinn, Regional Communications Specialist, International Potato Center

What does it mean to ‘leave no one behind’ in the world of agricultural research for development? This was the question on the minds of those of us that represented the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) at the Third Global Conference on Agriculture for Development (GCARD3), organized by the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) and CGIAR and hosted by the South African Agricultural Research Council, in Johannesburg, South Africa.

GCARD was created to promote effective, targeted investment and to build partnership, capacities and mutual accountabilities at all levels of the agricultural system in order to meet the needs of resource-poor farmers and their communities. This, the third GCARD meeting, was a clear demonstration of how the global network is working to achieve these goals and was a confident step forward in progressing the global agenda on agriculture.

So, what role do root, tuber and banana crops have to play in this global discourse? And how can agricultural research and development initiatives ensure that the benefits they provide are far reaching, leaving no one behind?

 The CGIAR booth at GCARD3 was a great opportunity to see how the CGIAR was engaging with the GCARD3 process.

The CGIAR booth at GCARD3 was a great opportunity to see how the CGIAR was engaging with the GCARD3 process. Photo by Liya Dejene, CGIAR Consortium.

RTB crops including banana, cassava, potato, sweetpotato, yams and other root and tuber crops are excellent sources of nutrition and income for over 200 million farmers. They are mostly produced, processed and traded locally, making them less vulnerable to price changes on the international market. But as we learned at GCARD3 the world is changing fast with multiple global challenges including climate change and the need for healthier diets for an urbanizing population. Agricultural research for development needs to take this on board.

For RTB and the entire CGIAR network, the GCARD process presents an opportunity to develop the new, vibrant and inclusive partnerships we need to address these challenges and contribute to sustainable development. Mark Holderness, the Executive Secretary of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) captured this sentiment to go forward together in his closing statement that the conference has shaped a set of practical actions that “we can proudly take to the SDG review process.” This message was echoed by Frank Rijsberman, CEO of the CGIAR Consortium and keynote speaker at GCARD3 in the Huffington Post article on getting the research response to hunger right: is it our last shot?

Graham Thiele, Program Director of RTB, joined the conference theme ‘Showcasing results and demonstrating impact’: “It was a great opportunity for RTB, to build connections, to find similarity in the work we do and build a common framework. We have a framework for seed, technical constraints and social dimensions, and we are working together to add real value to what is already being done.”

Graham played a key role as rapporteur in the Theme 2 group and helped formulate new collective actions proposed in the GCARD3 Outcome Statement, including: to “create a platform to harmonize agricultural indicators linked to SDGs in order to improve collective action for impact” and to “contribute to national measurements of progress towards SDGs and build national capacity for integrated measurements” engaging with stakeholders including farmers, youth and women. These GCARD3 collective actions link with RTB’s vision for Phase II and shared accountability for development outcomes with our partners.

Theme 2 groups hard at work in GCARD3.

Theme 2 groups hard at work in GCARD3. Photo by Graham Thiele, RTB.

Likewise, colleagues from the International Potato Center (CIP), Adiel Mbabu and Tom Remington, participated in the thematic area of scaling up – from research to impact. Tom shared CIP’s experience on scaling up orange fleshed sweetpotato in Malawi through the DFID-led SUSTAIN project and which provided fantastic fodder for continued conversation throughout the three days of discussions. Adiel reflected that CIP is “…looking at scaling up and supporting policy environment to unitize orange fleshed sweet potato and tackling vitamin A deficiency, looking at a basket of nutritious crops and building capacity to pilot scaling up – and trying to understand the processes that lead to impact at scale.”

Summing up a pledge agreed by the 500 delegates to integrate international and national priority setting and work in partnership, Mark Holderness said: “It’s down to all of us to go away and deliver.”

What’s next?

RTB plans to do just that. With over a billion people living on less than US$ 1.25 per day; with more than 800 million acutely or chronically undernourished and with around 2 billion people suffering from micronutrient deficiency or ‘hidden hunger’ it is essential that we at RTB find ways to connect local and national action with global challenge and remain focused on ensuring our research is relevant and has impact.

GCARD3 brought together over 500 people from 83 countries from scientists, researchers and policy makers to farmers, young people and entrepreneurs. It was an opportunity to debate, discuss and challenge each other on the big ideas concerning agriculture, food security and nutrition.  So what’s next? For RTB, these discussions do not end here. The key challenges highlighted at GCARD will continue to drive our work at RTB as we strive to contribute to the provision of nutritious diets for all; to improving the sustainability of agri-food systems in the face of increasingly complex global challenges and to scale up our research initiatives to contribute to the CGIAR wide goal to bring 100 million people in the world out of poverty by 2030.

At RTB, we are committed to working to increase the productivity of smallholder farmers with new crops and better ways to farm, increasing their resistance to environmental and economic shocks and we will continue to play our role in this global network of organisations to improve livelihoods, nutrition and food security around the world.

Graham Thiele, Director of the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers & Bananas being interviewed at GCARD3

Graham Thiele, Director of the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers & Bananas being interviewed by Sara Quinn at GCARD3. Photo by Liya Dejene, CGIAR Consortium.

For further information about RTB at GCARD 3

RTB participated at GCARD3 via the CGIAR booth, through media coverage and via the live CGIAR Periscope interview series. In his interview, Graham Thiele, RTB Program Director discussed new cassava processing technologies, native potatoes and reconfiguring value chains to provide nutritious RTB food to growing urban populations especially in Africa. And Adiel Mbabu, Regional Director of the International Potato Center SSA discussed a range of topics including: gender, scaling up and innovation.

New project to build commercially sustainable cassava seed system in Nigeria

A four-year project (2015 – 2019) to develop a commercially sustainable cassava seed value chain in Nigeria, was officially launched Monday 18 April at a public event at the headquarters of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan, Nigeria.

Titled ‘Building a Sustainable, Integrated Seed System for Cassava in Nigeria’ (BASICS), the $USD11.6 million project is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and led by the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB).

Despite being the largest cassava producer in Africa, Nigeria’s average yields of 14 tons per hectare are less than half of what may be realistically attainable.

The project aims to help Nigerian producers reach this potential through developing a commercially sustainable cassava seed value chain based on the purchase of quality seed by farmers provided by vibrant and profitable village seed entrepreneurs and basic seed production linked to cassava processors.

These seed businesses will provide healthy seed of more productive cassava varieties leading to adoption of new varieties to improve productivity and food security, increase incomes of cassava growers and village seed entrepreneurs and enhance gender equity.

Kicking off the public launch, Dr. Nteranya Sanginga, Director General, IITA, explained that the key to industrializing cassava is to increase productivity, and this means addressing the problem with weeds, improving agronomy and providing quality seed.

Dr. Graham Thiele, RTB Program Director, gave the project overview: “Our vision is that by 2019 smallholder cassava growers are buying high quality stems of their preferred varieties and planting them with improved agronomic practices. As a result yields have jumped by at least 40% and farmers have more secure markets for expanded production… Novel rapid multiplication technologies have lowered the cost of producing seed and accelerated the introduction of new varieties. Vibrant new businesses have been created all along the cassava seed value chain creating employment especially for women and youth.”

Mrs. Doyin Awe, Representative of the Hon. Minister, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development gave the official address and public launch. She noted that exciting new opportunities are opening for cassava, but planting materials for cassava present special challenges as they are bulky and perishable. She committed the full support of the Ministry to the new project and thanked the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for providing the funding.

Dr. Julius Okonkwo, Executive Director, National Root Crops and Research Institute (NRCRI), noted that much of Nigeria’s cassava seed system was informal and that NRCRI was very pleased to form part of the project in developing a modern seed system for cassava.

Dr. Yemi Akinbamijo, Executive Director of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) said: “I am excited to get back to BASICS so that we could move forward for a Food Secure Nigeria”. He emphasized the need to work on the entire innovation to impact pathway and said that today history is being made, and that he was very proud to see such a great initiative unveiled.

Mr. Louw Burger of Thai Farms, a cassava flour processing company, explained that better roots are easier to harvest and that its extremely important to start with the right seed.

Following the launch the project partners including National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC), the National Root Crops and Research Institute (NRCRI), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Context Global Development, and FERA (UK) took part in a participatory workshop to finalize work plans and move ahead with the project.

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The CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas

The CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) is a broad alliance of research-for-development stakeholders and partners. Our shared purpose is to exploit the underutilized potential of root, tuber, and banana crops for improving nutrition and food security, increasing incomes and fostering greater gender equity – especially amongst the world’s poorest and most vulnerable populations.

For further information and interview requests please contact:

Holly Holmes
Communications Specialist
CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas

Gender, breeding and genomics workshop – Open call for case studies

You are invited to submit an abstract for a case study of plant or animal breeding that has successfully incorporated gender considerations into its strategies and end products, demonstrating attention to contrasting needs and preferences of men and women end users (producers or consumers) by May 15, 2016. 

A small number of case study authors will be invited to present their study at the upcoming workshop ‘Gender, Breeding and Genomics‘ that will take place in Nairobi, Kenya from October 18- 21, 2016. Travel and accommodation expenses for the authors of selected case studies will be covered by the workshop organizers. Authors of other cases of interest to the workshop may be contacted with respect to inclusion of the case in a book-length or journal publication and/or presentation of a poster at the workshop, which is organized by the CGIAR Gender and Agriculture Research Network’s Gender and Breeding working group.

The workshop aims to identify the essential, ‘must have’ ingredients of successful, gender- responsive breeding initiatives and to explore implications of the revolution in genomics for new opportunities and entry points in the breeding research cycle for effective integration of gender.

Gender responsive root, tuber and banana breeding

There have been many cases in which improved crop varieties released by national agricultural research and extension systems were poorly received by farmers because they lacked the flavor or another trait that farmers or consumers wanted. To ensure high adoption rates for the varieties they develop, breeding programs usually survey farmers about the traits they prefer, but all too often, those researchers rely disproportionately on the opinions of men. However, specialization of household roles means that women and men have different knowledge about and preferences for varietal traits. Women are usually responsible for food preparation and small scale processing, but their knowledge is rarely used for the varietal development process.

As The CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) works to unlock the genetic potential of roots, tubers and bananas for improving food security, nutrition and incomes, it is also supporting field research to document gender-disaggregated trait preferences. The aim is to ensure that the improved RTB crop varieties developed in the coming years will have as widespread and gender-equitable an impact as possible.

Read more about RTB’s work to incorporate women’s needs and preferences into root, tuber and banana breeding. 

For more information about the upcoming workshop and how to submit a case study, please visit the Gender Network website.

Uganda: High post harvest losses in cooking bananas

Cooking banana is the main staple crop in Uganda produced mostly by smallholders for food and income. However, the cooking banana value chain players face risks of high postharvest losses due to the short green life of bananas and damage arising from poor handling of the produce after it is harvested, leading to high physical and economic losses.

A detailed market study was conducted in Isingiro, Rakai and metropolitan Kampala in Uganda to identify and describe the key players in the banana value chain and establish the current demand and future growth prospects of the different banana presentation forms. The study also established the level of sorting and grading in the banana value chain, the level of use of the weight-based pricing system and the actor’s willingness to pay for its introduction, along with determining the extent and causes of postharvest losses along the banana value chain.

Read the full story on Fresh Plaza