Tag Archives: Ghana

Addressing postharvest losses in cassava value chains

Postharvest losses are an important challenge in developing countries, and the RTB Research Program has included the issue in its research agenda for improving food security and income-generating activities. Diego Naziri, a scientist seconded by the Natural Resources Institute (NRI) to the International Potato Center (CIP), works on the RTB team dedicated to promoting postharvest technologies, value chains and market opportunities. He is the lead author of a recently published article on “The diversity of postharvest losses in cassava value chains in selected developing countries,” which compares the situations of different cassava–producing countries such as Ghana, Nigeria, Thailand and Vietnam.

“This research is the result of the effort of a multi-disciplinary team,” Naziri explained. ““I was very surprised by the findings of this systematic assessment of postharvest losses for such a perishable crop as cassava. The extent of these losses, their type and the stages of the value chain where they occur differ so much from country to country. It is clear that there is no “silver bullet,” so before designing any intervention for postharvest losses reduction, I would recommend similar approaches in other countries and value chains.”

The full PDF text is available from the Journal of Agriculture and Rural Development in the Tropics and Subtropics: http://www.jarts.info/index.php/jarts/article/view/2014121946902/821


The extent of physical and economic postharvest losses at different stages of cassava value chains has been estimated in four countries that differ considerably in the way cassava is cultivated, processed and consumed and in the relationships and linkages among the value chain actors. Ghana incurs by far the highest losses because a high proportion of roots reach the consumers in the fresh form. Most losses occur at the last stage of the value chain. In Nigeria and Vietnam processors incur most of the losses while in Thailand most losses occur during harvesting. Poorer countries incur higher losses despite their capacity to absorb sub-standard products (therefore transforming part of the physical losses into economic losses) and less strict buyer standards. In monetary terms the impact of losses is particularly severe in Ghana and estimated at about half a billion US dollar per annum while in the other countries it is at the most about USD 50 million. This comparison shows that there are no “one-size-fits-all” solutions for addressing postharvest losses but rather these must be tailor-made to the specific characteristics of the different value chains.


Cassava in Vietnam / Credit: Dominique Dufour

Yams: Raising the profile of the “King of Crops”

Yam is a very important and popular RTB crop in West Africa, with 99% of the world production coming from just five countries in that region (Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Togo). The traditional staple crop has deeply-rooted cultural significance: while yam festivals are held in African countries such as Nigeria and Ghana, its cultivation is also a tradition in Latin American and Asian-Pacific countries such as Colombia, Jamaica, Philippines, Fiji, Indonesia and Vietnam. However, the potential of the “King of Crops” – as it is known in Nigeria – seems to have been underexploited, something that could change thanks to recent initiatives.

Yams for sale/CIRAD

Yams for sale/CIRAD

After RTB was launched in early 2012, the yam-breeding unit of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) started working on several initiatives. Since then, various advances have been made, starting with a propagation technique that uses vertical sacks with vine cuttings, which allows for an earlier recommendation of new varieties, speeding up the process. The time it takes for IITA to recommend varieties to the national systems could be reduced from 9 to 4 years using this technique. We have also discovered, for the first time, plants free of viruses, coming from true seed, which opens a new window to determine the real yield potential of yam, and also improves possibilities for germplasm exchange. It also has facilitated improved screening protocols for nematode, drought and atrachnose resistance.

In a partnership with the United Nations International Trade Centre, based in Geneva, IITA also developed a participatory methodology that led to the development of a national yam value chain strategy in Ghana. IITA started consultations with Ghanaian institutions in 2010 to support the development of the strategy, which aimed at creating business and industry development with social impact while ensuring food security. It included the participation of all the value chain stakeholders, who decided about markets, areas, products and demands for support institutions. Ghana was the first country to adopt such a strategy, partly because yam was one of the crops that the Ministry of Trade and Industry selected to support export diversification and private sector development.

The Ghana Yam Strategy was launched following the first ever Global Conference on Yams, held in Accra October 3-6, 2013. The event, which was attended by more than 150 participants from 20 countries, was an opportunity for stakeholders to explore recent innovations in yam improvement, share lessons learned, identify research and development needs, and develop global alliances. In the words of Dr. Robert Asiedu, IITA Director for Western Africa, RTB Leader and the convener of the conference: “The event provided a platform for consultation and development of a global strategy for improving the yam sector based on genetic enhancement; crop protection and mitigation of risks due to pests, diseases and climate change; conservation of genetic resources; prevention of postharvest losses; improved seed systems; crop diversification; and enhancing the industrial potential of yam and improved market access.” All of these are RTB priorities.

Yams in Ghana/IITA

Yams in Ghana/IITA

Both the conference and the Ghana yam value chain strategy demonstrate the level of interest in tapping the unexploited potential of yam and in raising its profile as a global crop. For Antonio López-Montes, IITA yam breeder, this is only the beginning. Other countries have expressed interest in elaborating yam strategies similar to Ghana’s with the help of IITA and ITC. “We are in the process of finding funds to support the development of yam value chain strategies for Nigeria, Benin, DR Congo, and Togo in Africa; and Colombia, Jamaica and Cuba in the Caribbean and Latin America, ” he explained.

As for RTB research on yams, it is moving forward. The yam genome sequence should be released next year, and a yam metabolomics platform is in process. A catalogue of elite varieties is scheduled to be published in 2014, along with a publication on farmers’ agroecological knowledge about yam, climate change and soil fertility. And to please palates and develop market opportunities, IITA is currently working with the private sector in West Africa to incorporate yam flour into noodle production. Bread with 20% to 40% yam flour is already a reality: it was launched with the value chain strategy in Ghana when an IITA baker taught a group of local bakers how to make yam bread, biscuits, cupcakes and chips, among other products.

By Véronique Durroux-Malpartida

Sweetpotato research advances celebrated in Accra and Kumasi, Ghana

Sweetpotato and yam bean researchers from the International Potato Center (CIP), and partners in Sub-Saharan Africa spent the first week of October 2013 in Accra, Ghana along with a host of other root and tuber crop researchers at the 12th International Symposium of the International Society for Tropical Root Crops – Africa (ISTRC-Africa).

The themes of the ISTRC-AB meeting were: ‘Competitiveness of Root Crops for Accelerating Africa’s Economic Growth’ and ‘Harnessing Research Innovations to Unleash the Potential of the Yam’. 

The event was a great opportunity for representatives from a range of organisations to come together to discuss key issues relating to root crops in the Sub Saharan African region.  In particular, the ISTRC-Africa symposium provided participants with the opportunity to partner, compare notes and develop strategies to unleash the potential of the root and tuber crops.

“Root and tuber crops (sweet potato, cassava, and yams) provide great opportunities for long-term poverty alleviation and food security much more than any other staple foods produced in the African, Caribbean and Pacific regions,” said Ghanaian President Mahama who was represented by Mohammed Alfa, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology Innovation.

For sweetpotato researchers, a highlight of the ISTRC-AB meeting was the 6th biennial meeting of the Sweetpotato Support Platform for West Africa which attracted over 120 participants to a plenary session.

Another highlight occurred at the SPHI exhibit stand when conference-goers were offered packets of Akarabo Power Biscuits, the product of the Rwanda SuperFoods component of the SASHA project. The biscuits were gone in seconds!


The week-long event attracted over 200 hundred local and international scientists, donors, farmers, and other development partners.

The 12th ISTRC Symposium was organized with support from the government of Ghana, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), IITA, CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Banana (RTB), HarvestPlus, African Development Bank-funded Support for Agricultural Research and Development of Strategic Crops (SARD SC) project, IITA-Yams Improvement for Incomes and Food Security in West Africa (YIIFSWA), Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike; the Federal Government of Nigeria, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Potato Center (CIP) and several other organizations.

Next on the agenda was the 4th Annual SPHI Technical and Executive Steering Committee Meeting which was a chance for senior staff from CIPs SPHI Projects to discuss key highlights from the 4th year of the project. This included discussions around the vision of SPHI; monitoring of SASHA progress; the African Potato Association Meeting and SPHI expansion.

The meeting was a great opportunity for the SPHI Community from across Sub-Saharan Africa to discuss outcomes, devise strategy and learn from one another across the spectrum of SPHI projects and research.

The group discussed a wide range of topics including the potential of sweetpotato as part of West African productivity; RNAi sequencing as a new approach for tackling weevil resistance; conventional breeding strategies; breeding progress in national programs; CloneSelector development and decentralized vine multipliers.

Field trips were also part of the agenda, with participants also visiting local SPHI projects including the Sweetpotato Support Platform Postharvest & NIRS lab; the screen house complex, field plots; the WAAPP biotech facility and tissue culture lab as well as taking part in taste evaluations.

Participants also engaged in high level, expert led panel discussions on the topics of: ‘What are we learning from different farmer multiplier experiences with Net Tunnels’ and ‘Sweetpotato Processing in Ghana:  What we have tried, What is the way forward, and What might we learn from China and elsewhere’.

Country focused projects were also examined and lessons learnt analysed across a range of key projects including ‘Rooting Out Hunger in Malawi’; ‘Integrating Orange in Zambia’ and ‘Understanding gender roles in Nigeria’.

Overall the conference was a valuable opportunity to reflect on SPHI projects thus far and to plan and develop strategies moving forward.

VIDEOS: Watch the video on RNAi sequencing in action and the advertisement for the Rwanda Akarabo sweetpotato based biscuit – two project highlights which were discussed at the meeting. 

FURTHER INFORMATION: For further information about the 4th SPHI Executive Technical Meeting including access to papers and presentations visit here. And for more detail about the 12th International Symposium of the International Society for Tropical Root Crops – Africa visit the IITA website.

For more information about CIP SSA’s Sweetpotato projects please visit: http://cipotato.org/sweetpotato


ISTRC-AB group

Team Sweetpotato! Participants at the 4th Annual Technical and Executive Steering Committee Meeting of the Sweetpotato for Profit and Health Initiative (SPHI). 



Sweetpotato celebrations Performers from the Cultural Center in Kumasi, Ghana provided entertainment during a break at the SPHI meeting.










Field Tripping: During the field trip participants at the SPHI meeting visited the CSIR-Crops Research Institute. Here, Marina Quain introduces visitors to the new biotechnology building at the Institute.



 Such a variety: Selections from the breeding program on display during the field trip to CSIR-CRI.


Cuisine Sweetpotato Cuisine: Mpotompoto & other locally-appropriate sweetpotato dishes on display at the SASHA postharvest laboratory at CSIR-CRI during the field trip.



Lab Visits: The postharvest team (in white) and a group of visitors outside the laboratory during the field trip. 



 Sweetpotato Learning: Dr Francis Amagloh of the University for Development Studies took first place in the Researcher category of the poster competition at the SPHI meeting.