Tag Archives: partnerships

Revolutionary mobile app for monitoring crop pests and diseases

Just as the late blight epidemic wiped out potato fields in Ireland in the 19th century, crop pests and diseases still have devastating effects on smallholder farmers today – with scenarios projected to worsen under climate change.

Cassava brown streak disease is spreading westward across the African continent, and together with cassava mosaic disease, threatens the food and income security of over 30 million farmers in East and Central Africa. Likewise, banana is threated by fungal and bacterial diseases and banana bunchy top virus, while sweetpotato is faced with viruses and Alternaria fungi.

Farmers are often unable to properly identify these diseases, while researchers, plant health authorities and extension organizations lack the data to support them.

To overcome these issues, a team under the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB), are working on a revolutionary app to accurately diagnose diseases in the field, which will be combined with SMS services to send alerts to thousands of rural farmers.

Diagnosing cassava disease in the field. Photo IITA

The team, led by David Hughes of Penn State, and James Legg of IITA – who leads RTB’s flagship project on Resilient Crops – together with scientists from CIAT, CIP and Bioversity International, are presenting their proposal as one of 12 finalists for a $US100,000 grant as part of the CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture Inspire Challenges at the Big Data in Agriculture Convention 2017 in Cali, Colombia this week.

The concept leverages three critical advances in how knowledge is communicated to the farm level: 1) the democratization of Artificial Intelligence (AI) via open access platforms like Google’s TensorFlow, 2) the miniaturization of technology allowing affordable deployment and 3) the development of massive communication and money exchange platforms like M-Pesa that allow rural extension to scale as a viable economic model enabling last mile delivery in local languages.

Painstaking field work using cameras, spectrophotometers and drones at RTB cassava field sites in coastal Tanzania and on farms in western Kenya has already generated more than 200,000 images of diseased crops to train AI algorithms.

Using many of these images, Hughes, Legg and collaborators were able to develop an AI algorithm with TensorFlow that can automatically classify five cassava diseases, and by collaborating with Google, the team have been able to develop a TensorFlow smartphone app that is currently being field-tested in Tanzania. Penn State has also developed a mobile spectrophotometer through a start-up called CROPTIX. Early results suggest it can accurately diagnose different viral diseases in the field, even if the plant looks healthy.

 “The concept leverages RTB’s global network across multiple crops for testing and scaling with national partners and the private sector in all three continents where we work. This technology will enable small-scale farmers to quickly take action and stop the spread of pests and diseases in their farms, protecting these critical sources of food and income security,” said Graham Thiele, RTB Program Director. “We are really excited about this initiative and delighted to be teaming up with Penn State,” he added.

A Tanzanian farmer examines his cassava plants for the presence of pests and disease. Photo H.Holmes/RTB

The project team has already developed linkages with the Vodafone agriculture SMS platform called DigiFarm, which positions them strategically to link digital diagnostics to large-scale rural text messaging services. The team will deliver farmer tailored SMS alerts on crop diseases and pests to 350,000 Kenyan farmers by July 2018.

Once the diagnostic and SMS systems are up and running, their impact will be determined by assessing how rapid disease diagnosis increases yield in cassava value chains in Kenya involving 28,000 farmers.

An existing platform housed by Penn State (www.plantvillage.org) will enable real time discussions of disease and pest diagnoses across the CGIAR community and with other experts to enhance SMS alerts from the DigiFarm platform.

It’s is envisaged that these innovations, initially piloted in East Africa, will provide a model that can be extended to the range of locations where RTB works, and in so doing impact the farming and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of farmers.

See more in the project flyer. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Economically sustainable seed businesses to transform cassava production in Nigeria

Seed sector professionals have said that businesses selling improved varieties and high quality cassava stems for cultivation could help African farmers significantly raise their productivity. This will mean more income from the same land, inputs and effort. The benefits of this raised productivity will be enjoyed by all the stakeholders across the value chain in a sustainable way.

This was part of the resolutions from a national stakeholder conference on cassava seed system organized by the project, ‘Building an Economically Sustainable Integrated Cassava Seed System’ (BASICS) that was held at the Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), in Ibadan from 20 – 23 March, 2017.

The meeting, which reflected on the experiences of BASICS in 2016 and refined the project plan for 2017 and beyond, brought together national and international researchers, academics, policymakers, the private sector, non-governmental organizations and farmers to a roundtable.

Making the case for urgent need for all the stakeholders to work towards a sustainable seed system in Nigeria, Hemant Nitturkar, Project Director for BASICS, reminded the participants that Nigeria is the largest producer of cassava in the world with a production of about 54 million tons, but its yield per hectare of cassava roots is about 8 tons, less than half of the realizable yields of more than 20 tons per hectare. Researchers say one of the factors responsible for the low yield of cassava is the low adoption of clean and healthy seeds of improved varieties of cassava by farmers.

Participants at the BASICS project meeting in Ibadan, Nigeria. Photo: IITA

“We have to start with the right planting material and nurture it with good agronomy and weed management practices.  Each of these three components has the potential to raise the productivity of cassava by 30 percent. If we do not improve our practices in seed, weed and agronomy, we are incurring a lost opportunity of about 200 billion Naira annually from each of the three issues,” he explained.

BASICS is commercially piloting two distinct pathways of seed delivery. In one, called’Village Seed Entrepreneur model’, in partnership with Catholic Relief Services in Benue and with National Roots Crop Research Institute (NRCRI), in Abia, Imo, Cross Rivers and Akwa Ibom states, the project is helping develop a network of 130 community based seed enterprises. These Village Seed Entrepreneurs will source certified stems of improved varieties of cassava from NRCRI and IITA to multiply and sell to the farmers in their vicinity. This way, the farmers will not have to go far to source quality stems for planting. In the second pilot called ‘Processor Led Model’, in partnership with Context Global Development, the project is working with large processors of cassava who will then make available quality stems to their outgrowers with a buy back arrangement for the roots produced.

Lawrence Kent with Peter Kulakow of IITA who is showing the plantlets from the SAH early generation multiplication thriving in the field. Photo G.Thiele/RTB

Emmanuel Azaino of Catholic Relief Services proudly shows their poster which won the people’s vote during the stakeholder meeting. Photo: G.Thiele/RTB

Slow and low multiplication ratio has been a key constraint in cassava seed system. The project is piloting a new technology called Semi-Autotrophic Hydroponics for vastly rapid seed multiplication. Once this technology from Argentina is adapted and perfected in Nigeria by the Project, it is expected to have a significant impact on the ability of early generation seed businesses to quickly bring suitable varieties within reach of farmers. The project is also working with National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC) and Fera of the UK to improve the quality certification system in Nigeria.

Lawrence Kent, senior program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said the aim of the project is to build an economically sustainable seed system that is profitable both to the sellers of quality stems and to the farmers who purchase and plant those stems. He encouraged all to create reusable bridges to continuously link technology developers with farmers through business oriented approaches, like the one being implemented under BASICS.

Graham Thiele, Program Director for the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas, which leads the BASICS project; Alfred Dixon, IITA Director for Development and Delivery, and Project Leader for the Cassava Weed Management Project; Amin Babandi, Director of Agriculture, FMARD, represented by Segun Ayeni, DD Roots and Tuber crops, FMARD; Folusho Olaniyan OON, CEO, Contact Consulting Nigeria and Program Director, AgraInnovate West Africa; Emmanuel Okogbenin, Director of Technical Operations, AATF and Robert Asiedu, Director R4D, IITA-West, all shared perspectives and added their voice for all stakeholders to jointly build a strong and sustainable seed system for cassava in Nigeria and wished all stakeholders well.

The BASICS project is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and led by the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB).

For more information, please contact
Hemant Nitturkar, Project Director, BASICS h.nitturkar@cgiar.org

What can CGIAR’s new research programs learn from systems approaches?

Graham Thiele, RTB Program Director, shares his insights and reflections from the Systems Research Maketplace event, which took place earlier this month. 

As we prepare for the second phase of CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs) in 2017, this is an opportune time to reflect on, and learn from, the approaches our programs have taken during their first phase.  In particular, as the programs shift from a commodity focus to an agri-food systems (AFS) approach, it’s critical that we share the learning from the systems CRPs of the first phase and the products they produced, which could be valuable in the next cycle.

This was precisely the rationale behind the recent Systems Research Marketplace event, which I attended in Ibadan, Nigeria from 15 – 17 November – jointly organized by the CGIAR Research Program on Integrated Systems for the Humidtropics and the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA). During the meeting, we heard an overview of progress by the systems CRPs and reflections on how to include systems approaches during the second cycle of CRPs from 2017.

The highlight for me was the ‘World Café’, an interactive workshop space where many of the tools and concepts developed by systems programs were shared. Small groups of researchers, or prospective users, rotated around poster presentations by the tool developers for an interactive exchange of views. At the end of the World Café users provided feedback on which tools they intended to use in their research programs and why – “what is in your shopping basket?”

Participants at the Systems Marketplace event. Photo by O.Abioye/IITA

Participants at the Systems Research Marketplace event. Photo IITA

I was invited to prepare a short perspective in the meeting on what the second cycle of CRPs could learn from the ‘Marketplace’ of approaches and tools presented.

The first question I asked was “Do we need systems tools?”

The evidence from what we saw in the World Cafe is: “Yes, absolutely!” We saw many outstanding tools and concepts that have been developed and refined through CGIAR’s research programs, including:

Many of these methods help to engage with broader groups of stakeholders, and make our thinking less ’researcher centric’. It’s also clear that going to scale will require a heavy investment in capacity development for facilitators and action agents. So I was especially excited to see resources for building capacity for scaling – for example The Blended Learning Program.

Men participate in a focus group discussion in Uganda to understand how women and men adopt and benefit from innovations. Photo A.Rietfeld

Men participate in a focus group discussion in Uganda to understand how women and men adopt and benefit from innovations. Photo A.Rietfeld

The second question I asked was “What do we need to do next with this rich legacy of tools?”

I could see a number of next steps:

  1. Sifting through and organizing the ‘legacy’ systems tools for use by the second cycle CRPs.
  2. Better characterization of the use and status of tools:
    • Were they fresh into print for the marketplace event?
    • In validation? (How many cases)
    • Are they mature – widely adopted with significant numbers of users?
  3. Systematically document and incorporate user feedback around these tools – crowd sourced/on line.
  4. Not just “do users want a particular tool?” but:
    • Why?
    • How do we address heterogeneity among users?
    • What more do you want?
    • What features don’t you like as a user?
  5. Identifying repositories for the longer run – including user data.
  6. Decentralized approaches cross-CRP access and co-development systems tools.
Participants in disucssion during the World Cafe workshop. Photo O.Abioye/IITA

Participants in discussion during the World Cafe workshop. Photo O.Abioye/IITA

The third question I asked was “What’s the evidence for the theory of change of innovation and research for development (R4D) platforms and their linked approaches and tools?”

I recognize the challenges that some system CRPs faced in meeting certain criteria for evidence, considering they only had around two to three years of implementation to make a difference. I suggested:

  1. Provide the best achievable evidence at the point along impact pathway you reached.
  1. Be open to share what didn’t work.

This is all essential information to help the second cycle CRPs as future users and change agents of systems tools and approaches to do better. We should also draw lessons from the systems CRPs about how to improve institutional arrangements within CGIAR to make systems research more effective. Conducting systems research has implications for research governance (e.g. staffing, modes of research agenda setting, place-based funding mechanisms, M&E indicators, meta theories of change on the role of research, etc.) and these may require some close scrutiny.

I did hear a few good examples of evidence of theories of change presented in the Marketplace event including:

However, it would be great to have a richer and deeper evidence base going forward.

Lively discussions during the event in Ibadan. Photo O.Abioye/IITA

Lively conversations during the event in Ibadan, Nigeria. Photo by IITA

The fourth question I asked was “What do we need to do next to build on this legacy by supporting ongoing innovation processes and partnerships?”

I proposed the following:

  1. Consistent geographic inventory of work under systems CRPs related to particular AFS-CRPs.
  2. Link this to site integration, processes and priorities (how important are AFS crops in the different sites?)
  3. Identifying entry points of legacy of systems work with AFS-CRPs commodity work.
    • E.g. During the Humidtropics MSP in the Côte d’Ivoire, the program trained women farmers in a largely cocoa producing region to process Attiéké product from cassava, providing market opportunities and enhancing cassava varietal diversification and adoption. This area strongly maps into the RTB cassava processing cluster targeting small and medium enterprises

The Marketplace demonstrated the potential value added from more closely integrating systems approaches into the commodity focus of first phase CRPs. In particular, these approaches and tools can enhance scaling and keep our focus on improving livelihoods and gender equity. These are valuable lesson that RTB will be building on as it evolves into a fully-fledged Agri-Food System CRP. New partnerships have been initiated to effectively build these systems and scaling elements in RTB from January 2017 onwards.

Uganda President Museveni officiates at Bioversity International Banana Farmers Day

Story by Joshua Turyatemba for Bioversity International

Banana is one of the most important sources of food and income in Uganda. People consume on average 7 bananas per day and the local word for bananas – matooke – means food.

Last Friday 11 November 2016, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni officiated at the first Banana Farmers’ Day, held in the South-Western district of Bushenyi. The district is one of the most affected by the banana bacterial wilt (BBW) infestation that peaked in 2013, with some farmers losing entire plantations and their source of income.

In a collaboration involving Bioversity International, the National Agricultural Research Organization-NARO, together with the Kenyan counterparts – the Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organization – and the Rural Energy and Food Security Organization, scientists piloted a project and used control measures that saw the disease incidence reduced by 90-98% within 6 months of intervention.

The President visited one of the farm households involved in the project who had excelled at combating BBW using the control tools developed by Bioversity International and NARO. He later toured an exhibition of banana-related inputs and products and local projects such as the community seedbank.

Dr. Eldad Karamura, Bioversity International Regional Representative for Eastern and Southern Africa, welcomes President Museveni to the first Banana Farmers Day in Bushenyi, Uganda. Photo: J.Turyatemba/Bioversirt

Dr. Eldad Karamura, Bioversity International Regional Representative for Eastern and Southern Africa, welcomes President Museveni to the first Banana Farmers Day in Bushenyi, Uganda. Photo: J.Turyatemba/Bioversirt

In appreciation of the effort, the President offered four heifers to the homestead to enable them to increase their income as well as a source of manure for the banana plantation, which has since recovered and is now very productive. In the Bushenyi district, the disease incidence on farm has been brought down from 70-100% in 2012 to 2-5% currently.

Addressing the guests later at the ceremony, President Museveni said he is committed to ensuring that incomes at household level increase through mixed farming: “If a person has 4 acres, it is possible that by planting bananas, tea, coffee and rearing animals he can generate over 100 million Uganda shillings per year.”

Giving the example of Mr. Stanley Rwabukye, the host farmer who currently generates about 20 million shillings, the President said that he wants to see such models replicated all over the region and the country in order to get people out of poverty. “I am always talking about commercial farming. I am happy to see it is being done and that there are fruits. We need to address the bottlenecks of lack of water, poor soil and improve seed varieties,” he added.

Addressing the President and guests on behalf of Bioversity International, former Director General, Emile Frison, said:  “We are very pleased to work with such a strong collaboration of partners in Uganda to improve productivity, address food security and nutrition for smallholder households.”

As part of the project to combat BBW using the Learning and Experimentation Approaches for Farmers (LEAFF) management tool, competitions were held to select the best farmers out of 10 groups of 10 households each. The first and second overall winners – Mr. Stanly Rwabukye and Mr. Juvenal Mugyizi –received heifers. All the participating farmers went home with a gift.

The McKnight Foundation, who funded the project, and the project implementers Bioversity International and NARO were honoured with awards for their support and intervention by the BBW project farmers. The chief guest, President Museveni received an award by Bioversity International for his “wise leadership and support for agriculture in East and Central Africa.”

In his remarks, Dr. Eldad Karamura, the Bioversity International Regional Representative for Eastern and Southern Africa, emphasized that the control measures for BBW had been tested and found to be working effectively. Karamura added: “The Banana Farmers’ Day is an occasion for celebrating partnerships that were forged in combatting BBW as well as the recovery of livelihoods relying on bananas for income.”

The event was held under the theme ’Bananas for Better Livelihoods’ and attracted a large number of guests from the research, academic, policy, local leadership and agricultural sectors. The Banana Farmers’ Day was also attended by the Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries; the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation; and the Minister for General Duties in the Office of the Prime Minister; and Members of Parliament from the district.

This research is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas.

CGIAR announces approval of next phase of Research Programs

CGIAR has announced today in a press release the approval of a new, targeted research portfolio to boost poor farmer incomes, food availability and resilience in the face of climate change in developing countries.

Upon the recommendation of the System Management Board, the CGIAR System Council carefully reviewed and approved a strong set of 11 CGIAR Research Programs, including the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB), and three research Platforms to start in January 2017. CGIAR’s Independent Science and Partnership Council assessed the research proposals for relevance and pro-poor impacts in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

“This is really great news for RTB. The whole of our program has been strongly supported. That sets us really well for Phase II as a refocused Agri-Food System CRP with a broader vision. It will enable us to continue our valuable research with partners and contribute towards achieving impact as envisioned in our proposal,” noted Graham Thiele, RTB Program Director.

A farmer in East Africa. Photo: N.Palmer/CIAT

A farmer in East Africa. Photo: N.Palmer/CIAT

Funding allocations will be determined in November 2016, with all five of RTB’s Flagship Projects (FPs) approved as eligible for funding:

FP 1: Enhanced genetic resources
FP 2: Productive varieties and quality seed
FP 3: Resilient crops
FP 4: Nutritious food and added value
FP 5: Improved livelihoods at scale

“Food demand is set to rise by at least 20 percent globally over the next 15 years, with the steepest increases in Africa, South Asia and East Asia,” Juergen Voegele, Senior Director of the World Bank’s Agriculture Global Practice and Chair of the CGIAR System Council, was quoted as saying. “CGIAR and its network of 15 research centers is ideally positioned to deliver the suite of new agricultural technologies that are climate-smart, nutrition-sensitive and pro-poor.”

More than 300 million people below the poverty line in developing countries depend on root, tuber and banana crops for food and income, particularly in Africa, Asia and the Americas.

Root, tuber and banana crops – cassava, potato, sweetpotato, yams, bananas, plantains, and tropical and Andean roots and tubers– are some of the most important staple crops in the world’s poorest regions. They provide around 15% or more of the daily per capita calorie intake for the 763 million people living in the least developed countries, and many can be grown with few inputs and often under harsh conditions.

“However, RTB crops often haven’t got the attention they deserve as crops for the future, and the RTB research program is really helping to put them on the map. For example, drawing attention to their potential and developing a climate change response. So this renewed commitment to CGIAR comes just at the right time to sustain this momentum,” added Graham.

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.