Tag Archives: rtb

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.

Accelerating Africa’s economic growth through root and tuber crops

The 13th International Symposium for the International Society for Tropical Root Crops- Africa Branch (ISTRC-AB) has kicked off this week in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The four day meeting (5-8 March) brings together over 300 delegates from government agriculture ministries in Africa, development partners, international and national agriculture research organizations, academia, private sector as well as farmers with an interest in root and tuber crops in Africa.

Participants will present and discuss latest research, innovations, technologies and trends on root crops in line with the theme “Expanding Collaboration, Catalyzing Innovation of Root Crops for Accelerating Africa’s Economic Growth”.

Farmers rejoice over better access to healthy seed potato in Kenya. Photo: FIPs-Africa

“We hope we will get practical hands-on solutions, that can help address farmers’ constraints in production of root crops, with the modest investment dedicated to research and development of these crops,” said Tanzania’s Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries (MALF) in a speech read by his Director Dr. Hussein Mansoor. He encouraged researchers to work together with the farmers, policy makers and all stakeholders, for co-ownership of research findings to increase chances of technology adoption for the intended improved productivity and utilization of root crops.

He also further called for applause of the 2016 World Food Prize (WFP) laureates from the International Potato Center (CIP) which is the lead center of the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) —Drs Maria Andrade, Robert Mwanga and Jan Low, all attending ISTRC-AB—for their great achievement in contributing to reduced hidden hunger among women and children of Africa, through the orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP).

Earlier, Dr. Low delivered a key note address, at ISTRC-AB, highlighting significant gains made in sweetpotato work in the region.  “Our breeding work in Africa has grown from only two countries in 2005 to 12 in 2009. A further three are engaged in varietal selection,” said Low.                                  

Dr. Jan Low delivers key note address the 13th ISTRC-AB symposium in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Photo: V. Atakos (CIP)

She highlighted investments by national governments as important in supporting roll out of nutritious root crops such as OFSP. “Policy  support is critical in helping change perception of sweetpotato as a crop for the poor,” she said.

The meeting revolves around five sub themes relevant to RTB:

  • Managing priority genetic resources, cropping systems and pests and diseases
  • Commercial seed system, agronomy and weed management
  • Post harvest technologies, nutrition, value chains and market opportunities
  • Enhancing innovative impact through partnerships
  • Mobilizing investors for sustainable root and tuber crop research and development.

The concluding day of the conference on March 09 will feature a special plenary session for RTB to provide an update on the progress and results from the program’s five flagship projects. 

ISTRC-AB conference has been organized by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) working closely with a number of partners including RTB, CIP, and the Natural Resources Institute among others. ISTRC-AB was established in 1978 and is headquartered in IITA.


Blog contributed by Vivian Atakos, Regional Communications Specialist, International Potato Center

Linkages between staple crops research and poverty outcomes

The Independent Science and Partnership Council’s (ISPC) Science Forum 2016 from 12 – 14 April in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, will focus on the contribution of agriculture to reducing poverty under the topic: “Agricultural research for rural prosperity: rethinking the pathways”.

Co-hosted by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the forum will rethink the pathways for agricultural research to support inclusive development of rural economies in an era of climate change, collecting evidence and building on lessons learned to suggest an updated list of priority research areas and approaches.

A breakout session during the forum will concentrate on the linkages between research on the staple crops of roots, tubers, bananas, maize, rice and wheat, and poverty outcomes.

A young woman sells root and tuber crops at a roadside market in Kampala, Uganda. Photo S.Quinn/RTB

A young woman sells produce including root and tuber crops at a roadside market in Kampala, Uganda. Photo S.Quinn/RTB

A collaborative endeavor jointly organized by the CGIAR Research Programs on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB), Wheat, Maize, and Rice (GRISP), the session will begin with a presentation by Jeff Alwang of Virgina Tech, jointly delivered with Elisabetta Gotor (Bioversity International), Guy Hareau (International Potato Center), Jordan Chamberlin (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center) and Graham Thiele, Program Director, RTB. Following the presentation, the session will review theories of change and build on evidence that demonstrates the impact that international agricultural research working on these staple crops has had on reducing poverty.

“Innovations in root, tuber and banana crops have tremendous impact on poverty reduction by increasing farmers’ income through raised productivity, providing and strengthening linkages to markets, adding value and enhancing rural employment with better incomes through processing – which is often predominantly a woman’s activity,” explains Graham Thiele.

Growth in agricultural productivity, generating employment, and increasing farmers’ incomes are major pathways that link research to poverty reductions.

“Increasing productivity can also lower the cost of these nutritious staple foods for poor consumers and is essential for more viable value chains which generate employment especially for youth and women,” Graham adds.

A woman and man harvesting banana in Uganda. Photo S.Quinn/RTB

A woman and man harvesting banana in Uganda. Photo S.Quinn/RTB

To date, impact analysis has largely focused on the ‘economic surplus approach’ to estimate standard rates of return to the research. However, donors want to be better informed about impact more closely related to development goals of food security, poverty reduction and environmental sustainability. Assessing the impact of agricultural research is also critical for reasons of accountability, attribution, strategic planning and allocation of resources.

Despite the increasing interest and several ex ante assessments, including poverty dimensions, examples of ex post poverty assessments are scarce in the literature.

After reviewing the impact pathways for staple crop research and their supporting evidence, the session will draw on small group discussion among attending experts and develop a short paper synthesizing the key findings and conclusions of the session.

RTB’s ‘Foresight and Impact’ cluster of activity, led by Elisabetta Gotor, aims to enhance the program’s impact by guiding current and future investments of donors, policymakers, researchers and other practitioners on major opportunities and threats for RTB innovations at crop and systems levels.

Elisabetta Gotor comments that “the cluster’s research in this area will improve the targeting and tailoring of RTB innovations for next and end users, by providing insights on existing and future drivers of technology adoption.”

Read and download RTB’s current impact assessment reports for root, tuber and banana crops on our Impact Assessments page.

The First World Congress on Root and Tuber Crops will be held in January 2016 in China

ImprimirThe Global Cassava Partnership for the 21st Century (GCP21) and the International Society for Tropical Root Crops (ISTRC) join forces with CATAS – Chinese Academy of Tropical Agriculture Sciences, and GCRI – Guangxi Cassava Research Institute, to organize the First World Congress on Root and Tuber Crops in Nanning, Guangxi, China, on January 18-22, 2016.

The congress represents a unique opportunity for exchanging expert and scientific advice on RTCs – in particular for the global South – and will facilitate the discourse amongst key root and tuber crops stakeholders like farmers, end-users, researchers, the private sector and donor agencies.

It aims at raising awareness of the importance of the RTCs in the world, reviewing recent scientific progress, identifying and setting priorities for new opportunities and challenges as well as charting a course to seek R&D support for areas where it is currently inadequate or lacking.

The theme of the congress is ‘Adding Value to Root and Tuber Crops’ – from seed production to product diversification, enabling the identification of solutions for major bottlenecks in the production and proposing new technical solutions to resolve problems.

Due to its structure and content, the congress will facilitate the process of bringing together the scientific world and the private sector. There will be two formal plenary sessions, eight concurrent poster and oral scientific sessions per day offering more than 250 presentations, as well as evening workshops and much more to promote discussions around over 24 topics ranging from genomics to products.

In addition, the Congress will be preceded and followed by professional, technical and strategic satellite meetings, which will bring together an unprecedented crowd of professionals in the field.

Registration for the Congress is currently open via the conference website. Attendance is limited to 750, so early registration is advised.

There are also very attractive opportunities for exhibitors and sponsors. So don’t miss your chance to present your company to this qualified national and international audience!

Have a look at the available packages here: Sponsoring – Exhibitions

More information on the official Congress website or the GCP21 facebook page.

First Independent Steering Committee gathered in Lima to review progress of RTB program

A report by Graham Thiele, RTB Director

RTB is delighted to have held the first face to face meeting of the Independent Steering Committee (ISC) at the International Potato Center in Lima from September 8-11, 2015. The ISC reviewed progress during the year, discussed and provided feedback on the new program structure, and endorsed the selection of flagship project leaders.


ISC members (from left to right) – Back: Jean-Christophe Glaszmann, Dunstan Spencer, Eugene Terry, Alfredo Augusto-Cunha Alves – Front: Yvonne Pinto, Helen Hambly, Ann Tutwiler, Barbara Wells, Graham Thiele, Rupert Best

Helen Hambly, Chair, explained that the ISC is very pleased with RTB program performance, as well as scientific advance and sees that a solid foundation has been laid for the submission of a full proposal for the second phase of RTB next year. The ISC also highlighted some areas, which need especial attention as we move forward. This includes ensuring the consistency of the different flagship projects with key linkages between the flagship project on resilient crops, and livelihood systems and in turn between the livelihood systems flagship and impact at scale. Helen also commended the RTB on good progress with gender research, which was made possible thanks to a strong team including the RTB gender research coordinator and center gender focal points, and looks forward to continuity in this work with improved focus on specific science areas.

The ISC visited ongoing RTB research at CIP and saw different demonstrations of state of the art technology. This included research into the genetics of salinity in potatoes, a growing problem in parts of Central Asia, and improving nutritional quality of potatoes, which can make a big contribution to improving diets by addressing micro-nutrient deficiency known as hidden hunger.


Awais Khan explains the trial with a diploid potato population to investigate genetic determinants of tolerance to salinity


Helen Hambly, ISC chair, tasting the delicious nutrient rich potatoes – look just like native potatoes

The ISC also visited the world famous Mistura gastronomic fair and saw and tasted at first hand the amazing diversity of foods in Peru, where RTB crops play a central role as well.

Tacacho a local specialty made of pounded fried plantain

Tacacho a local specialty made of pounded fried plantain


Can’t beat the tacacho and cecina at Mistura!










Yvonne Pinto and Maria Erquinigo of Bio Organicos Andinos and her display of local quinoa varieties at Mistura

More information on the Steering Committee here

UK’s Natural Resource Institute: strength in depth for RTB research and development

By Graham Thiele

I visited NRI offices and labs near to Chatham, England earlier this year. I began the day with Andrew Westby, the enthusiastic director, who explained the full breadth of their work with roots and tubers. They are definitely big players in the field and many of their projects are directly related to what we do in RTB.

John Orchard and David Phillips, for instance, are supporting yam seed system development in West Africa. The main challenge is linking farmers to seed growers and scaling up for commercial production, David concluded after field visits. The economics of seed multiplication hinges on the cost of foundation seed, and broader multiplication depends on creating a community-based seed system.

Next stop was a chat with John Colvin, Sue Seal and Maruthi Gowda, who are using a holistic approach to understanding viruses and their spread, integrating knowledge of the disease, vectors, molecular diagnostics and bioinformatics. They explained that superabundant whiteflies, vectors for the transmission of brown streak virus, seen in late 1990s was a problem waiting to happen. There was a clear match between spread of whitefly and brownstreak. So it really wasn’t a matter of chance that cassava brownstreak virus spread in Uganda in 2004 with devastating consequences. The topic is of utmost importance to RTB. We are supporting the Global Cassava Partnership for the 21st century (GCP21), that earlier this year raised the alarm on new outbreaks and the spread to West Africa, where NRI also took part. Research lines being pursued in NRI include identifying genes for resistance to brown streak in elite lines provided by IITA and national research programmes in East Africa, and understanding the genome of whiteflies. John and Sue also pointed out the similar and significant risks of neglecting the management of whitefly populations on sweetpotato and the associated emergence of new virus diseases. They mentioned, in particular, the recent disturbing development of very high numbers of whitefly on sweet-potato in Uganda, which they identified as two of the most invasive and destructive species (MED and MEAM1) within the Bemisia tabaci species complex.

Another threat to sweetpotato is studied by Phil Stevenson, who collaborates with the Uganda sweetpotato program and North Carolina State University to identify genetic sources of and QTLs for resistance to sweetpotato weevils. Phil explained that long chain hydroxycinnamic acid esters prevalent in resistant varieties reduce oviposition and feeding by adults and stop larva reaching pupation. There are no anti-nutritional effects for consumers since these compounds occur in all varieties but vary in their quantities on the root surface. Segregating populations from a cross between the resistant African variety and a full mapped susceptible US variety is currently being studied to identify loci for resistance, so this looks like a promising new option to control this damaging pest.

Postharvest work is also big in NRI. Ben Bennett, Andy Graffham and David Phillips work on improving cassava processing in Africa with a focus on high quality cassava flour (HQCF) in the C:AVA project. They explained that large scale flash dryers proved not to be economically viable so the emphasis shifted to local flash dryers with a capacity around 250 kg per hour. Here they were able to substantially lower costs running dryers on cheaper fuel sources such as palm kernels and using a heat exchanger. These flash dryers are being acquired by the private sector in Nigeria, and market development is shifting to large numbers of small users such as bakers. Dominique Dufour, (CIAT and CIRAD) who leads our postharvest theme, Genevieve Fliedel (CIRAD), Bussie Maziya Dixon (IITA) and Keith Tomlins (NRI) are currently planning work on consumer acceptability in the framework of a new RTB postharvest project on cassava processing which should bring us closer together.

John Morton and Lora Forsythe are part of a strong social science group. They have contributed to developing an M&E framework for the C:AVA project). The framework matches differing country strategies and stakeholder needs. John explained work on a gender and diversity audit of organizations in five countries and how they looked at some of the tradeoffs for technological change with a gender lens. Laura, for example, pointed out that women sometimes preferred working with HQCF because of the health problems from smoke in traditional processing of gari, although it has been a major source of income for them.

I also gave a very well attended seminar about current RTB thinking to NRI staff, and the exchanges that followed confirmed multiple options for a closer partnership. I left Chatham very impressed with the wide range of competencies housed in a single institution.

Women and men members of the SSOSPA farmers organization in Eastern Uganda making HQCF with support from the NRI led C:AVA project
Flash dryer for HQCF production at Nobex, Nigeria with C:AVA, EU FSTP Cassava Growth Market and EU FP7 Gratitude project team members Collaborative team in Uganda in the field for value chain assessment and investment appraisal for cassava value addition (C: AVA project)
RTB Annual Report 2012

RTB publishes first annual report

Teaming Up for Greater Impact - RTB Annual Report

Teaming Up for Greater Impact is the title of the first RTB Annual Report, which documents the initial steps taken to consolidate the CGIAR Research Program during 2012 and highlights some of the achievements of its first year. Though it can be a challenge to coordinate collaboration among research centers and their partners on several continents, the report confirms that it is not only possible but that the resulting synergies can enhance the effectiveness of everyone involved.

Download a PDF of the report here.