Tag Archives: potato

World Bank book on Peruvian agriculture highlights native potato value chains

A book on Peruvian agriculture recently published by the World Bank highlights the dynamism of the sector and its impressive growth in the past decade. However, closer analysis shows how most of that growth has been the result of large-scale farming in the country’s coastal lowlands, whereas the vast majority of smallholders in the Andean highlands and Amazon have seen little progress. Yet there is some good news for Andean farmers, since a growing number have been able to access better-paying markets for native potato varieties, thanks to years of work by the International Potato Center (CIP) and partners.

Potato farmers the in Peruvian Andes, where productivity growth in agriculture has largely been stagnant. Credit:CIP

The book Gaining Momentum in Peruvian Agriculture: Opportunities to Increase Productivity and Enhance Competitiveness, launched in a high level event on March 01 in Lima, examines Peru’s agricultural development over the past two decades and the prospects for the coming years. The country’s agricultural sector averaged 3.3% growth from 2000 to 2015 and it employs approximately one in every four Peruvians. However, as noted by the book’s lead author, World Bank economist Michael Morris, most of that growth has been in the coastal region, whereas productivity growth in agriculture in the Andean highlands has largely been stagnant. The highlands, where potato is the principal crop of more than 80% of farmers, consequently suffer higher levels of poverty and malnutrition than the national average. The study also highlighted the growing challenge of climate change, which will require both financial incentives for adaptation and new technologies such as better-adapted potato varieties resulting from plant breeding.

In an effort to illustrate the potential for a more inclusive model of agricultural development, the authors included case studies in the book of examples of smallholders gaining access to markets that pay preferential prices for their crops. One of those case studies examines the development of native potato value chains that CIP coordinated through the Papa Andina Program. That program brought together public institutions, businesses and NGOs in Peru in a project called INCOPA, in order to tap the potential of the country’s approximately 3,000 potato varieties for reducing rural poverty.

The launch of the book took place in Lima on March 01, 2018. Photo: D.Dudenhoefer/CIP

INCOPA’s innovation platforms developed value chains for potato varieties that had traditionally only been consumed in the Andes, but are now sold and served in the supermarkets and restaurants of Peru’s largest cities, and are exported as potato chips or other processed foods. INCOPA also catalyzed the creation of Peru’s National Potato Day and organized media campaigns that pushed demand up from an estimated 70 kg of potato consumed per capita per year in the early 2000s to 80 kg at present, while sales of native potatoes increased by more than 70% and prices increased 150%. The total value of native potato exports rose from US$821,000 in 2010 to US$2.5 million in 2015, mostly from packaged snacks.

This is encouraging news for the approximately 700,000 Peruvian families that depend on potatoes, though most of them continue to produce for local or commodity markets. Morris said that niche products such as native potatoes have their limits, but should be part of a broader strategy. He noted that there have been encouraging developments not only in native potatoes but also other traditional crops.

Native potato varieties in a supermarket in Lima, Peru. Credit: CIP

Luz Díaz, a Senior Agribusiness Specialist at the World Bank and one of the book’s authors, explained that she and her colleagues included four cases studies in the book – the others deal with coffee, cocoa and banana – because they represent success stories of small farmers who have increased their incomes by gaining access to niche markets.

“We highlighted these cases because all of them bring lessons on how to develop inclusive value chains that generate opportunities for smallholders,” she said. “In the case of native potatoes, international development agencies supported and created a space for the institutions and local stakeholders to come together and interact. It has been at the core of what value chain development should be, to have this convergence of views and a shared vision to move forward.”

Miguel Ordinola, an agricultural economist at CIP who coordinated INCOPA, explained that in addition to helping Andean farmers find better markets for their potatoes, the project contributed to the development of a Participatory Market Chain Approach that has since been used in other countries of South America, East Africa and Southeast Asia. He explained that other organizations have copied the INCOPA model to help farmers tap the potential of local crop biodiversity to improve their livelihoods, and that interest in the approach is growing. Ordinola added that the sale of native potatoes has not only improved the incomes of smallholder families, it has created a sense of pride among Andean farmers, because native potatoes are part of their natural and cultural heritage.

“The experience related here will give us an opportunity to expand the scale of this kind of approach, since these publications are recognized on a national and international level,” Ordinola said. “This gives the market chain approach we applied to native potatoes here in Peru greater visibility, and that’s very important for CIP.”

Farmers harvest native potato varieties in Peru. Credit: CIP

Graham Thiele, Director of the CGIAR Research Program on Roots Tubers and Bananas (RTB), was one of the coordinators of Papa Andina. He observed that lessons learned from Papa Andina could be applied to other RTB crops, adding that they have already informed sweetpotato, potato and banana interventions in Uganda, Indonesia and the Philippines..

“There are lessons to be drawn from that experience on how you can take a crop that is undervalued, that is grown by people in more challenging environments, poor people with few resources, and how it can be revalued to generate better livelihoods for those people,” Thiele said. “I think that there are very strong lessons that we can apply to other crops in the RTB portfolio around the world.”

Blog contributed by David Dudenhoefer for the International Potato Center. 

Increasing the resilience of roots, tubers & bananas

Given its focus on the resilience of root, tuber and banana crops, Flagship Project 3 (FP3) aims to incorporate environmental, biological, ecological and economic considerations into the various ‘clusters’ – distinct projects within the flagship.

Crop resilience can be compromised in myriad ways, notes James Legg, FP3 leader and a plant virologist at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). Among them:

  • Biological factors: including pests, diseases and the inevitable introduction of alien invasive species into a new geographical region as a function of increased international trade and people’s global movement patterns
  • Environmental factors: ranging from drought and increased soil salinity to unexpected spikes or drops in temperature
  • Agro-ecological factors: such as the over-exploitation of land through multiple cycles of cropping, which leads to soil degradation, nutrient deficiencies and other problems
  • Social factors: T for example, population growth leading to greater pressure on agricultural land, or the impacts on shareholders of increasingly smaller farming plots
  • Factors related to changing global climate: these effects will differ greatly among crops and could include shortened life cycles and increased economic damage from major pests.

Cassava farmer examines his field infected by cassava witches’ broom disease in Cambodia. Photo G.Smith/CIAT

Across this array of threats to resilience, technology is vitally important for achieving the goals of FP3, Legg says. For example, sequencing DNA from a specific pest can help the team determine which species are present in which locations, leading to more precisely targeted control efforts.

Moreover, the ability to use new tools to diagnose a disease more quickly and cheaply goes a long way toward containing the threat it poses.

“The invasive pathogen Fusarium oxysporum fsp cubense – Tropical Race 4 – was detected for the first time on the African continent, in a single farm in Mozambique, through the use of a molecular diagnostic method using polymerase chain reaction (PCR),” Legg says. “FP3 scientists and their partners are now using these diagnostics in a containment programme that will map the geographic spread of this new pathogen prior to designing a comprehensive control strategy.”

Yellow and wilted leaves are typical symptoms of Fusarium wilt. Photo G.Blomme/Bioversity International

Sometimes, efforts to boost crop resilience occur in isolation from efforts to enhance other desirable traits. Yet that won’t always be the case: Legg observes that increasingly in Phase II, FPs will combine to “bring these two lines of work together so that improved nutritional profiles” – whose development IN orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP), cassava and banana is being addressed in FP2 and FP4 – “will be combined with resistance to major biotic and abiotic threats in new varieties developed and promoted.” In fact there are multiple natural points of intersection among FP3’s focus on resilience and its sister flagships. By the same token, germplasm development work housed under FP2 will dovetail with specific clusters in FP3. In addition, FP3’s project to improve diagnosis and control using phytosanitation of banana bunchy top virus (BBTV) is being linked to other flagships to help scale up efforts to control its spread.

In theory, how long would it take for Legg and the rest of the FP3 team to ascertain if resilience has increased in a given crop? It all depends on the factors against which resilience is being gauged, he says.

For example, since FP3 covers much of RTB’s disease-management work, it might only require two or three growing seasons (ideally in different locations) to measure whether crops now display greater ability to withstand pest and disease pressures. Yet “for factors such as climate change or soil degradation, the period required may be longer,” he says.

“Much of the cross cutting thinking on resilience in FP3 is being undertaken within cluster 3.2, Sustainable Cropping Systems,” Legg continues. “Under this cluster, research is being undertaken that aims to develop resilient production systems. Since this work considers the whole system, with its diversity of crops and environments, there is an inherent complexity. This will mean that it will take several years before systems with enhanced resilience can be developed, and several more years before the robustness of those systems can be confirmed.”

Cassava farmer, Mr. Khalifa Omari Nkrumah, of Mkurangra district, Tanzania inspects his cassava plants for the presence of Cassava Brown Streak Disease. Photo H.Holmes/RTB

As resilience increases, so too can smallholders’ potential economic and social benefits. Yet Legg cautions that there’s no quick path from greater resilience to greater revenue.

“Yield increases can be converted to estimates of economic gain and increased income,” he notes. “Calculating the impact at the community level is significantly more challenging, and requires the implementation of impact studies conducted at the community level both before baseline and after the implementation of resilience-promoting activities.” Typically speaking, community level change is achieved only after a meaningful period of scaling – which is where FP5 Improved Livelihoods at Scale will engage and support.

“The key theme unifying all of the FPs is the development of productive, profitable and sustainable systems that will ensure that roots, tubers and bananas make a major contribution to sustaining and enhancing the livelihoods of the growing number of people living in the tropical parts of the developing world,” Legg says. “In all the FPs, we share a common goal, and we are working closely together to achieve that.”

This is the third in a series of blogs showcasing the new Flagship Projects of the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas. The next edition will examine Flagship 2 on ‘Adaptive Varieties and Quality Seed‘. By Amy Rogers Nazarov

Nutritious foods and added value for health and wealth

“It starts with the person who wants to eat affordable, safe, nutritious food,” says Simon Heck, the Mozambique-based sweetpotato project leader for the International Potato Center and the leader of RTB’s Flagship Project 4 on Nutritious Food and Added Value. “The urban consumer will [represent] the majority [of consumers] soon, and we must focus on how they” – along with the smallholders raising and selling the crops – “attain the benefits of roots, tubers and bananas.”

With that vision in mind, this flagship has an important focus on promoting utilization and uptake of biofortified crops – those bred for maximum nutrients – such as orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP), cassava, potato and potentially banana and yam too.

Levels of beta carotene in both OFSP and cassava – which the body converts to Vitamin A – is an area of special interest considering its role in the health and development of young children. Lacking sufficient Vitamin A, tens of millions of children in developing countries suffer from stunted growth which limits mental development, as well as premature death and blindness.

Children under five years of age eating OFSP. Photo credit: HKI

While work to enhance OFSP is well underway in RTB, other biofortification efforts show a great deal of promise. Among them: boosting iron and zinc levels in Irish potato and breeding cassava that (like OFSP) contains higher levels of beta carotene. While “cassava doesn’t respond as quickly” as OFSP does, Heck notes, it’s just as critical a crop to smallholders in certain regions.

To that end, geography and economics figure into which crops warrant biofortification research within FP4. “You might say, well, OFSP is much richer in beta carotene than cassava – but cassava can grow in places where nothing else grows,” Heck notes. Indeed OFSP can contain more concentrated levels of beta carotene, “but it’s limited in terms of its distribution.” Potato may be able to modified to contain more zinc, but the higher costs of raising potato may limit the benefit that nutritional boost can have.

Approaches to promoting biofortification in one crop can be deployed in the service of another, Heck says. “You build on what has been achieved,” he says. “It’s one of the values of how RTB approaches this work: in our platform, we can exchange scientific methods to accelerate progress across [multiple] crops. We owe it to the farmers [growing crops] and to the children [consuming them] to make full use of what each of us knows.”

For all crops, the effectiveness of crop processing and storage methods will affect smallholders’ outcomes and consumers’ health, too. The best varieties and harvesting techniques mean little if half the crops are lost due to spoilage or pests, so FP4 is looking closely at best practices in these areas as well. Methods ranging from pureeing OFSP for distribution in vacuum packed bags, to processing zinc-rich potato into flour, to storing harvested crops underground or at ambient temperatures to better support their preservation may be suitable, depending on a region’s climate, topography, financial stability, electrical grid health and other factors, Heck says.

FP4 is also paying close attention to improving the efficiency and reducing the energy and environmental footprint of cassava processing. Great strides have been made to understand how the higher efficiency of large scale cassava processing plants in Asia could be replicated at a much smaller scale in Africa and Latin America, opening up an important space for south-south learning.

Cassava starch processing in Vietnam. Photo N.Palmer/CIAT

In its clusters, FP4 must also pay heed to gender roles that may have long dictated tasks around growing and selling crops.

“Two domains that are often separate in many countries come together [under the auspices of FP4],” Heck says. “Men’s domain roles tend to be perceived to be around agriculture, while those of women are perceived to be around caregiving and feeding. Now, a lot of our assumptions seem to imply that somehow a benefit generated in one sphere will translate into benefits in another sphere, but we know it is not that easy.” The question becomes: “How do we involve both men and women in both spheres?”

Remember: a lot of OFSP, for example, is actually grown by women, Heck notes. By the same token, “we want to involve men in childcare, nutrition, materials extension and activities.” While gender-based roles are certainly bound by tradition, “they are never written in stone.” Working with more organizations that already have credibility in checking these assumptions is key to breaking down gender-based barriers.

Loading OFSP on a bike in Western Kenya. Photo credit: HKI

In addition to working with organizations that can help examine gender-based assumptions, FP4 will develop partnerships with local health clinics and government agencies services. These organizations are often ideally placed to enable consumers to understand the healthful benefits of RTB through programs such as:

  • Teaching adults how to prepare these foods, processed or not
  • Working with pregnant women and mothers to help them learn about the role Vitamin A and other micronutrients play in the health of the developing fetus, infant and child
  • Measuring health outcomes within a given community over time

FP4 is largely about “overcoming barriers of acceptance of crops,” Heck concludes. “One good thing about the biofortification strategy is that the crops you are biofortifying are ones that already exist, that are accepted [in the region]. People already know how to cultivate them; they’re already part of people’s recommended diets. We can tap into the capacity that is already there” – and, partnering with Flagship 5 on ‘Improved livelihoods at scale’ and others, scale up efforts to amplify biofortification’s potential to boost crop nutrition, hardiness and stability in a changing, hungry world.

This is the second in a series of blogs showcasing the new Flagship Projects of the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas. The next edition will examine Flagship 3 on ‘Resilient Crops‘. By Amy Rogers Nazarov

The nuts and bolts of collaborative research on roots, tubers and bananas: RTB Annual Meeting

As the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) kicks off Phase II, the team came together in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, for an annual review and planning meeting from March 11 – 12.

The meeting built on the momentum from the RTB World Café on Scalable Technologies which took place the day before, and along with updates of progress, focused on refining the nuts and bolts of collaboration to build effective flagship project and cluster teams. 

The event brought together over 80 researchers from across RTB’s five program partner centers – International Potato CenterInternational Institute of Tropical AgricultureBioversity International, International Center for Tropical Agriculture and Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD) – along with colleagues from other partners including Wageningen University.

Over 80 participants from RTB partner centers came together for the annual meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Photo H.Holmes/RTB

Graham Thiele, RTB Program Director set the scene with an analysis of strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the program, and some key responses to the address the points identified in the analysis.

“RTB is entering its second phase in a strong position. We had one of the highest rated proposals for Phase II, we have clear impact pathways to reach our targeted outcomes by 2022 and our alliance model means we have cemented, effective partnerships that will be critical to allow us to reach those goals. However, we also have areas to improve upon – The cost and complexity of coordinating such a large-scale program with over 350 partners is a challenge, as is the need to carefully steward our W2 funding and  mobilize funding for cross cutting opportunities,” explained Thiele.

“We also need to strengthen flagship leader’s roles in science quality and knowledge management, and cluster leader’s roles in project management, along with maintaining the ‘glue’ of collaboration in cross cutting areas,” he added.

Anne Rietveld shared a program update on gender research, highlighting the successful collaboration with the Gender Responsive Researchers Equipped for Agricultural Transformation (GREAT) project, which provided training to agricultural researchers from sub-Saharan Africa on gender-responsive research for root, tuber and banana crops in 2016.

Claudio Proietti explained the progress of the new Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) Platform launched at the end of 2016 as an all-in-one modular platform for improving planning, management, monitoring, evaluation, and reporting. 

Holly Holmes presented progress in RTB communications and outreach, including tracking digital analytics and engagement, and highlighting RTB’s interactive 2015 Annual Report website.

Conny Almekinders (center) of Wageningen University, summarizes key discussion points from the Flagship Project 2 session with the broader group. Photo H.Holmes/RTB

Flagship project leaders held interactive groupwork sessions with their teams, which are ordinarily geographically dispersed. A key output of the lively groupwork was a one-year timeline for each flagship detailing key upcoming events and moments in the project calendar, together with ideas for resource mobilization. As each FP presented their timeline and key discussion points to the broader group, members of other flagships identified areas of synergy and cross-flagship collaboration.

Simon Heck, Flagship Project 4 (FP4) leader, noted that the meeting had helped the team to come together and build some momentum.

“This was the first physical meeting of the FP4 team. We discovered that our different crop research groups are already working towards similar goals – strengthening the consumer focus of our research, supporting innovation that diversifies the use of RTB crops, and finding solutions for managing the perishability and environmental footprint of RTB crops as the food systems become more complex,” Heck explained.

Simon Heck (center left) and members of the FP4 team in group discussion. Photo H.Holmes/RTB

“The session gave us a sense of common purpose, and greater confidence that, by working together in the flagship, we can address these large questions more effectively and realistically. As an immediate next step, scientists from all partners and clusters are now contributing to a compelling cross-cutting research agenda for the flagship and are committing to joint research proposals on some key research issues affecting several RTB crops. It was a real energizer for FP4 and many of us will meet again in June to produce the first set of joint outputs,” he added.

Other participants divided into small groups to discuss practical guidance and next steps on the following areas:

  • Coordination and communication of, and between, clusters
  • Strategic Innovation fund
  • Monitoring and Evaluation
  • Big Data Platform
  • Excellence in Breeding Platform

The outputs of these discussions can be found in the annual meeting report.

In order to improve the lives of millions of men and women who depend on root, tuber and banana crops by 2022, it’s essential to ensure we have the nuts and bolts in place for an effective program team. To this end, the RTB Annual Review and Planning Meeting helped to solidify new flagship and cluster teams, and position the group for a strong start to Phase II.

For more detailed information about the meeting, please see the RTB Annual Review and Planning Meeting Report.

RTB-ENDURE banana project offers solutions for postharvest losses

Researchers collaborating under the ‘Expanding utilization of roots, tubers and bananas and reducing their postharvest losses’ (RTB-ENDURE) banana sub-project have identified solutions that will help Ugandan banana farmers and traders reduce income loss due to poor handling of their produce. The solutions were officially launched during the subproject’s final event which took place on 25-26 November 2016 in Masaka and Rakai Districts, Uganda.

Uganda produces about 10 million tons of banana per hectare per year , from an estimated 1.3 million hectares nationwide. For ordinary Ugandans, cooking banana is not just a staple crop but part of the socio-cultural fabric of the smallholder households and is used for medicine, bride price and marriage negotiations, birth and death rituals. The crop has been ranked number one for drought resilience in areas of the cattle corridor which are prone to prolonged droughts and frequent floods.

Participants listen during a session at the Final Event in Masaka. Photo by J.Turyatemba/Bioversity Internationa

In the event’s opening remarks, Dr Eldad Karamura, Bioversity International Regional Representative, said that in the last 15 years, NARO-Uganda and Bioversity International have collaborated on many banana research projects, largely in the pre-harvest sector of the value chain, including diversity conservation. He added that Bioversity International will move to further strengthen the postharvest sector to address hidden hunger in children and young mothers by promoting the consumption of vitamin A- and iron-rich bananas at the household level.

The banana sub-project is part of the larger RTB-ENDURE project implemented by CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) with funding from the European Union and technical support of IFAD. The overall purpose of the RTB-ENDURE project is to improve food availability and income generation through enhanced postharvest management and expanded use of RTB crops in Uganda.

As part of the activities that took place to mark the final event of the project, a science day was held where research findings were disseminated to an audience consisting of researchers, banana farmers, civil society, government agencies, the media, agro-processors, exporters and local government officials.

At the event’s science day, Dr. Diego Naziri, RTB-ENDURE Project Coordinator, explained that bulkiness and high perishability of RTB crops coupled with poor postharvest handling and lack of processing and storage facilities result in a short shelf life, high postharvest losses and limited value addition.

The banana sub-project adopted the Participatory Market Chain Approach (PMCA) developed by the International Potato Center (CIP). Under this design, all actors (farmers, collectors, wholesalers, retailers, exporters, researchers, non-governmental organizations, etc.) in the banana value chain are brought together to jointly identify, analyse and exploit market innovations.

A Ugandan banana exporter prepares her produce. Photo S.Quinn/CIP

According to Dr. Enoch Kikulwe, the banana sub-project coordinator, 18.2% of all the cooking bananas produced in Uganda (corresponding to 47.3% of traded bananas) suffer postharvest losses. Of this amount, 8.9% of the bananas deteriorate completely and have no residual value while 9.3% only deteriorate partially and are sold at prices lower than their normal market rates. This particularly impacts retailers, who are largely women.

In order to maximize sales and income, farmers are advised to concentrate on banana varieties that already have an existing market and high untapped demand. The available identified varieties include Mbwazirume, Kibuzi, Musakala and Nakitembe.

In a gender analysis undertaken as part of the project by Susan Ajambo, a Gender Specialist with Bioversity International, it was found that women are concentrated in banana retail, which is the least profitable node of the value chain. The project therefore supported women to participate in the more profitable nodes of the value chain, such as in wholesale and the production of healthy planting material. According to Ajambo, both men and women have already embraced the macro-propagation technique and have established commercial chambers for selling clean banana plantlets of selected varieties.

Among the other areas, the project has also identified optimum harvest time and storage conditions for bananas, developed market linkages, trained hundreds of farmers in enhanced postharvest handling and piloted sales by weight.

During the final event, a tour to a commercial seed multiplication chamber and a mother garden at Ddwaniiro in Rakai district was also organised where farmer groups held practical demonstrations of the new techniques of multiplying popular banana variety cultivars for commercial farming.

A number of institutions partnered in the project, including the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), CIRAD, NARO, KAIKA InvestCo, Uganda Fruits and Vegetable Exporters and Producers Association (UFVEPA), district local governments, and the Ssemwanga Group.

The project activities have been piloted in South-west Uganda in the districts of Rakai and Isingiro. This region produces 68% of the cooking bananas harvested in Uganda. The project began in 2014 and ended in December 2016.

Blog contributed by Joshua Turyatemba of Bioversity International 

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

What the success of orange-fleshed sweetpotato can teach us

By Graham Thiele, Program Director, CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas

This has been a big year for RTB’s lead center, the International Potato Center (CIP), with three of the center’s scientists winning the World Food Prize (WFP) for their work on the biofortification and scaling of vitamin A rich orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP), while also celebrating its 45th anniversary year.

I recently joined a lively panel discussion with the WFP laureates – Maria Andrade, Jan Low and Robert Mwanga – during an event to commemorate these achievements in Lima, Peru, where CIP headquarters are located.

During the conversation I shared three key lessons that stood out to me from this important work on OFSP and a reflection on how advocacy in Peru to change the perception of potatoes is relevant for addressing food and nutrition security in Africa.


Lesson 1: Food based approaches to addressing hidden hunger work!
A key component underpinning the success of OFSP to address vitamin A deficiency was that researchers paid very close attention to building an evidence base that it worked. This began by showing the impacts on nutrition that OFSP was having at a local level. Another key element that was stressed during our panel discussion was paying very careful attention to scaling and making sure that the right partners were on board at each stage.

Here in Peru and the Andes the most important hidden hunger we are facing is iron and zinc deficiency. This is also very debilitating for those affected and its quite prevalent in highland communities. CIP and many other partners have already begun exciting and promising work utilizing potato to address this hidden hunger. Potato has reasonable levels of iron and zinc, and some varieties have especially high levels. Through breeding we can further increase those levels, just as was done for Vitamin A with sweetpotato. Of course the more nutrient dense potato would need to enter into family diets and there would be a strong nutrition education dimension to this. But just as with OFSP, if we want to make this a success we need to pay careful attention to getting the evidence of nutritional efficacy and have a strong strategy for scaling. Actually the evidence of impact generates momentum and can build the investment case for scaling.

Women show six different varieties of cooked OFSP. Photo: CIP

Women in Malawi show six different varieties of cooked OFSP. Photo: CIP


Lesson 2: Food based approaches empower women!
By working with OFSP which is locally produced, women are empowered to take control over their nutrition and health and that of their babies and young children. Women themselves pay a central role in accessing vines, growing and harvesting the roots and preparing OFSP food. So this is the equivalent of teaching women to grow their own Vitamin A pills.  However, we also learned that only engaging women doesn’t work. Men play a key role in decision making and access to resources, and need to be involved too. For example, it may be a challenge for a heavily pregnant woman to collect vines for planting or prepare land, so their spouse needs to be on board as well. So empowering women with OFSP really means being sensitive to many gender issues.

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Women are empowered to take control over their health and that of their children. Photo: CIP


Lesson 3: Extraordinary results mean extraordinary people and these need extraordinary organizations!
The experience of introducing OFSP and getting impact at scale is a highly complex innovation. It required a series of technical challenges such as breeding to improve dry matter content of OFSP varieties adapted to Africa, engaging the nutrition community to provide the key education messages needed for uptake, but also convincing donors and bringing in many partners across a multitude of countries. This whole process took nearly 20 years!

Jan, Maria and Robert are innovation champions who pushed this though in the face of many difficulties. Jan mentioned that she took this proposal for in initial proof-of-concept research in Mozambique to 21 different donors before she found one who was prepared to fund an integrated agriculture-nutrition proposal. Jan and Maria were even described as ‘the crazy sweetpotato ladies’ for pushing so single mindedly what seemed like an improbable vision.

So the extraordinary results we have heard about required three extraordinary people. Yet this wouldn’t have been possible if they hadn’t worked in an organization with an incredible team which had the vision and flexibility to support this.

CIP Director General, Barbara Wells, welcome guests to the celebration event in Lima.

CIP Director General, Barbara Wells, welcome guests to the celebration event in Lima. Photo: CIP


Reflection: the advocacy work in Peru to change the positioning of potatoes is very relevant for OFSP and other food based approaches in Africa
One amazing achievement in Peru over the past decade, of which we are immensely proud, has been to dramatically raise the profile of the potato and its consumption. This built on work by CIP, the National Innovation Institute, the Ministry of Agriculture, Institute of Nutritional Research, NGOs, chefs, gastronomy schools, supermarkets, processors and farmer organizations. It began by re positioning native potatoes as part of Peru’s cultural and gastronomic heritage, as well as a delicious ingredient with chefs. This spilled over to a more general shift in perceptions leading to the designation of a National Potato Day which is celebrated every year.

There are lessons from this for Africa about how to reposition sweetpotato and other root crops for urban consumers. These are often perceived as the poor man’s or women’s food suitable for villages but left behind as people move to cities. The experience of Peru shows that it’s possible to reposition these as nutritional and delicious functional foods for urban populations. This should lead us to a two-way exploration and joint construction of options among colleagues in Africa with those in Peru and the Andes for promoting healthier diets based around sweetpotato and potato.

Improved potato variety ‘Qingshu 9’ a success story in China and beyond

From the RTB 2015 Annual Report

In their efforts to improve the food security and livelihoods of farmers around the world, potato breeders at the International Potato Center (CIP) strive to develop marketable, resilient varieties with resistance to viruses and late blight that can be grown in an array of environments. An excellent example of the potential of such a potato is CIP variety No. 392797.22, a high-yielding clone that can be found in fields all over China and is grown in several other countries. The Chinese government is promoting potato production to improve food security, and CIP 392797.22 has proven to be an excellent option for the country’s farmers.

Originally developed in Peru in the 1990s, the variety was selected from a cross of CIP No. 387521.3 and ‘Aphrodite’, from CIP’s lowland tropics virus resistant population. It was field tested in Peru’s lowlands and mountains and was first released to farmers in 1998 by the National University San Luis Gonzaga, Ica under the name ‘UNICA’. Field trials showed that it has a stable, high yield in varied environments, is resistant to viruses, and tolerates drought. It also produces quality potatoes with red skin and yellow flesh that are good for fresh consumption and have the qualities needed for French fry production.

Farmers harvesting Qingshu 9 potato in China. Photo K.Xie/CIP

Farmers harvesting Qingshu 9 potato in China. Photo K.Xie/CIP

“The evaluation of improved populations in Peru’s warm, arid coastal and cool, humid mountain regions is key to identifying varieties adapted to the different, challenging environments of the tropics, and can help broaden adaptation even to temperate environments such as those of Northern China and Central Asia,” explained Merideth Bonierbale, who leads CIP’s genetics, genomics and crop improvement research. “RTB is supporting CIP’s genetic research to systematize and accelerate breeding of varieties with this combination of adaptive resistance and quality traits through genomic selection.”

UNICA was introduced to China from CIP in 2001 by the Qinghai (Provincial) Academy of Agriculture and Forestry Sciences. Following evaluation by the Qinghai Crop Variety Assessment Committee, it was released as a provincial variety in Qinghai in 2006 with the name ‘Qingshu 9’ – Qing referring to the Qinghai Academy and shu being the Chinese word for potato. After assessment at a national level, Qingshu 9 was released as a national variety in 2011, and over the next five years, it came to be planted in China’s main potato production regions. At the same time, the variety has been introduced to Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and is slated for release in Bangladesh in 2017.

Kaiyun Xie, a potato specialist at CIP’s China Center for Asia and the Pacific, explained that farmers across Northern and Southwest China have adopted Qingshu 9, primarily because it produces well and consumers like it. According to preliminary expert consultations, Qingshu 9 was grown in 13 major potato-producing provinces in China in 2015, when it covered approximately one third of the potato-farming area of Qinghai Province, 14% of the potato area in Ningxia Province and 6% of the potato area in Gansu Province.

Local experts estimated that more than 150,000 hectares in China were planted with Qingshu 9 in 2015. Given an average yield of 30 tons per hectare, compared to a national average of 20 tons per hectare, it is estimated that Chinese farmers produced approximately 4.5 million tons of Qingshu 9 potatoes in 2015. Xie noted that various companies are selling seed potatoes for Qingshu 9, so the area planted with the variety is likely to increase in 2016.

“This variety represents a successful case of breeding broadly-adapted and marketable potatoes with combined resistance to major diseases, a feature that helps farmers lower production costs and access new markets with reduced risk of crop loss,” observed Bonierbale.

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

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

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

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

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.

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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:

Potato

  • RTB-ENDURE is testing and validating potato storage
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    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.

Banana

  • 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.
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    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.