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RTB Narrative
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» FP 5: Improved livelihoods at scale

RTB Narrative

RTB is planning a second phase beginning in January 2017

The CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) is one of eight Agri-Food System CRPs (AFS-CRP). During the second phase it will incorporate livelihood systems work, especially from the CRP Integrated Systems for the Humid Tropics (Humidtropics) with which strong collaboration has been established. It will expand collaboration with four Global Integrating CRPs which work on important topics such as Climate Change, Policy, Nutrition and Health and Water and land use. It will also work much more closely with  the AFS-CRPs which work on cereals, legumes, fish, livestock and trees which are part of  the new CGIAR portfolio.

RTB brings together four CGIAR centers (Bioversity, CIAT, CIP, and IITA) and CIRAD (also representing the French organizations IRD, INRA, and Vitropic) with more than 200 partners for research on banana, cassava, potato, sweetpotato, yam, and minor roots and tubers. Termed “vegetatively propagated staple crops,” they are linked by common breeding, seed, and postharvest issues, and by the frequency with which women are involved in their production and use. RTB crops are the backbone of food security in a swathe of countries running through the humid tropics in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and in more localized areas of Asia and Latin America. Elsewhere, RTB crops often complement maize, rice, wheat, legumes, vegetables, and livestock, while also forming part of many agro-forestry systems. Around 300 million poor people in developing countries currently depend on RTB value chains for food and nutrition security and income; many more benefit through their consumption. RTB crops are increasingly taking on roles in income generation in value-added markets. However, climate change could potentially undo progress in poverty reduction and markedly increase food insecurity especially in SSA where RTB crops are the most important.

Agri-food systems affect the incomes of those employed in them, the nutrition and health of consumers, and the quality of the natural resource base. They embody a mosaic of different crops, animals and fish and other options at different levels of scale and involve women and men in varied and changing roles. Hence RTB research requires appropriate involvement of women and men at each of these levels from household, to community to landscape and above and promotes the use of participatory and multi-stakeholder approaches, aimed at strengthening engagement and targeted at livelihoods enhancement.

RTB and its partners, will conduct research for development (R4D) on its key crops and support scaling to achieve the following goals over the  six years of the second phase:

SDG SLO Outcomes Table_16_03_03

RTB will achieve these goals with five interlinked and interactive flagship projects (FPs).

Flagship Projects


Flagship Project 1 (FP1) contributes breeding methods and tools such as markers and new traits that can be incorporated into the Flagship Project 2 (FP2) clusters as its primary next users. It seeks to influence changes in policy and regulatory frameworks for enhancing conservation and safe exchange of RTB genetic diversity. FP2 includes not only all of the upstream part of the breeding for each of the crops, but also complementary seed and other technology and approaches for demand creation based on systems analyses. Each of the FP2 clusters has its own scaling strategy, but FP2 also links with Flagship Project 3 (FP3) and Flagship Project 4 (FP4) as next users of prototype varieties that require further participatory selection to match end user’s needs and particular constraints (e.g., disease resistance).

FP3 develops an array of products for pest and disease characterization and management in diverse crops and improved agronomy for more resilient cropping systems, but also for supporting breeding efforts. FP4 also uses prototype varieties with high micronutrients or desired postharvest, processing and consumer traits. Likewise, it develops set of research products which complement varieties and translates them into nutrition outcomes, improved efficiency in postharvest technology, and reductions in postharvest loss. Flagship Project 5 (FP5) functions as a systems research platform and as an “innovation broker” and provides a livelihood system-related guiding framework for the whole set of flagships to steer them toward the areas of greatest return, build their capacity for better partnering and capacity development, provide evidence of impact and ensure improved attention and taking into consideration of gender-related aspects.

Impact Pathway

(Click on image to enlarge)

Impact pathway

 Questions to guide your feedback:

  1. What do you consider are the most important and relevant elements in the RTB program for the second phase?
  2. Which elements do you think need strengthening?
  3. How could your organization improve its collaboration with RTB in the second phase?

Please leave your feedback as a comment below, specifying the question number you are responding to. Any additional comments are welcome too.

6 thoughts on “RTB Narrative

  1. Thierry Tran

    Q2: The importance of developing easy-to-cook, nutritious RTB-based products in response to changing demand by increasingly urban populations can be underlined more strongly in the description of FP4. For instance: "Likewise, it develops research products which complement varieties and translates them into nutrition outcomes, improved efficiency in postharvest technology, novel food products adapted to the needs of urban populations, and reductions in postharvest losses."

    1. Thierry Tran (CIRAD)

      Q1. Overall the text captures well the scope and objectives. Communication and integration between FPs are important and will need conscious planning to make them happen to their full potential.
      Q3. The collaboration of my organization (CIRAD) with RTB during Phase I has worked well and achieved significant outcomes. In the second phase, we are considering strengthening our gender team in order to better integrate gender considerations in the RTB activities.

  2. Greg Forbes

    Q1. All of the key outcomes seem highly relevant.
    Q2. Integration among FPs could be a problem, particularly between FP5 with the other FP's. What are the mechanisms to ensure that information will really flowing among the FP's as the arrows indicate in the figure above?

  3. Keith Tomlins

    Q1. A combination of push and pull approaches need to be continued into the second phase and these will require a range of differing skills, expertise and partners. On the push side a range of new innovations relating to lowing production costs and increasing yields will continue to be essential. FAOStat data indicates that cassava production in Africa has increased by 30% in the past 5 years for example – how much is push and how much is pull and who are the winners? On the pull side, a better understanding of market demand and the dynamics of that demand will be key and this is an area where information is still scant. Health and nutrition are also key in terms of better public health and biofortified varieties play an important role. Climate change will increasingly be an issue.
    Q2. The elements that will need strengthening include introduction of better yielding cultivars and reducing losses from pest and disease, understanding better the value chains (including gender support) and market linkages including preferences at the local, national and international levels. This is key as urbanisation continues to expand in Africa and populations expand stimulating new interest in root and tuber crops.
    Q3. My organisation (Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich, UK) is already a proud partner with RTB. Working with the partners in the RTB Program has contributed to our recently winning the Queens Anniversary Prize, Times Higher Education for International Collaboration and Guardian University award for our internationally recognised work on root and tuber crops. This work with collaboration with all of our partners internationally has contributed to improving livelihoods, gender, reducing waste, combatting pest and diseases, climate change etc. In my elected position as President of the International Society for Tropical Root Crops (ISTRC) which is a global forum for root and tuber crops, we support RTB initiatives.

  4. Roberto Quiroz

    Q1. The (livelihood) systems oriented work
    Q2. Systems oriented work is biased towards the humid tropics due to the close relationship with Humidtropics. It is important to pay more attention to dry areas. As a matter of fact, we mapped the actual proportion of true Humid tropics in the HT CRP sites, and the results showed that 50% of the target area in Central America, 10% in Mekong and 80% in East, Central And West Africa had less than 1500mm per year or less than 270 d with positive balance (rain>evapotranspiration). That means RTB crops are the backbone of food security not only in humid tropics but also sub-humid tropics and some dry tropics (Latitudes from 25oS to 25oN).

  5. Mebrahtu Gebremariam

    I found it good to include the postharvest aspect of RTB in addition to improving the productivity of such crops. This is becuse there is a lot of postharvest loss of such commodities


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