The regional congress “Root and Tuber Crops for Food Security and Climate Change Resilience in Asia” puts these crops in the spotlight and marks the end of the FoodSTART+ journey


FoodSTART+ Coordinator Dr. Diego Naziri, CIP Director for Asia Dr. Sam Mohanty, IFAD Lead Regional Economist Dr. Fabrizio Bresciani, and PCAARRD Deputy Executive Director for R&D Dr. Edwin Villar (left to right) officially open the knowledge and learning fair (Photo credit: PCAARRD Knowledge Management Unit)

Roots and tubers (RTCs) are notably versatile crops with various uses in the agriculture and food sectors and in climate change resilience and recovery efforts. After Typhoon Haiyan passed over the Philippines in 2013, cassava and sweetpotato were the first crops distributed and planted for food relief and rehabilitation.

However, despite this proven value, RTCs are often overlooked and undervalued.

With this idea in mind, concerned scientists and agriculture extension professionals, policymakers, the private sector, development practitioners, farmers’ organizations and donors met for the regional congress ‘Root and Tuber Crops for Food Security and Climate Change Resilience in Asia’ in Quezon City, Philippines, in October 2019 to discuss policies, approaches, and innovations for promoting RTCs to support climate change resilience among farming households in Asia. More than 100 participants from around South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands attended.

The scientists shared findings and recommendations to further scale up innovations, including the ones introduced by FoodSTART+, a recently concluded research project implemented by the International Potato Center (CIP). Funded by the European Union (EU) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), FoodSTART+ partnered with five large-scale IFAD investments in the Philippines, India, Indonesia, and Vietnam to enhance food resilience in upland and coastal communities, the most vulnerable to climate change, through RTC innovations.

The knowledge and learning fair was an opportunity for selected organizations to present and discuss root and tuber innovations in a highly interactive way (Photo credit: PCAARRD Knowledge Management Unit)

The Congress consisted of four parts: 1) plenary sessions on breeding, agronomy, pest and disease management, and contribution of roots and tubers to the resilience of agri-food systems; 2) a knowledge and learning fair that showcased innovations in seed systems, postharvest practices, and product development from selected organizations; 3) roundtable discussions; and 4) field visits to Pampanga to demonstrate successful experiences with cultivation, processing and contractual arrangements for cassava and sweetpotato.

Through this Congress, it is expected that researchers, extension workers, policymakers, the private sector, development practitioners, farmers’ organizations, donors, media practitioners, and the general public have gained a better understanding, greater awareness, and increased appreciation of RTCs and their benefits in addressing societal issues, including food security and climate change resilience.

As Dr. Diego Naziri, FoodSTART+ coordinator, noted in his concluding remarks “Roots and tubers are key crops for food security and mainstay of livelihoods in Asia, particularly for the poorest communities in marginal lands and indigenous people. They can grow in poor soils and with minimum input and are resilient to both long-term effects of climate change and increasingly frequent related extreme weather events, such as typhoons. Given their role in Asia, they contribute to the resilience of entire agri-good systems and their importance is projected to increase even further in the face of the dramatic change in climate in the region. The congress was an excellent venue for knowledge sharing and exploring opportunities for matching what research has to offer in terms of innovations and what are the most urgent needs by farmers, private sector and governments”.

Organized by CIP and Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCAARRD) in collaboration with Philippine Root Crop Research and Training Center (PhilRootcrops) of the Visayas State University (VSU), the Congress was sponsored by IFAD and the EU.

The highlights of the Congress can be accessed here.