RTB’s new Program Advisory Committee (PAC) met in person for the first time last week in Lima, Peru, where the members were introduced to some key RTB staff. The meeting took place at the headquarters of the International Potato Center (CIP), the lead center for the CGIAR Research Program.

The Program Management Unit (PMU) presented an update on progress with governance, program management, finance, communications, gender and intellectual property, engaging in discussions with the PAC members on further steps to be taken.

“One of the main assets of RTB are the human resources – after only 18 months the PMU team members have managed to put together the different parts of a machine that’s going very well, commented Helen Hambly, who was designated chair of the PAC. “That pool of common knowledge is what makes RTB very strong, it’s quite impressive to see how each other’s work fits in harmoniously”, she added.

The PAC, which comprised six independent scientists and development experts from different background, was established earlier in the year with the purpose of guiding RTB research and activities. It should merge with the current Steering Committee early next year, in order to become a unified, single governance body.

Later in the week the PAC had the opportunity to get a glimpse at root and tuber value chains while visiting the Santa Anita wholesale market in the outskirts of Lima, before tasting the creative dishes prepared by Hilton Lima’s chef Renzo Alcántara who cooked up a menu entirely based on potatoes.

Potato varieties in Santa Anita market

‘Yuca’ (cassava) for sale in Santa Anita market

Tasting native potato chips with Celfia Obregón from the NGO ADERS Peru

“The visit to the market gave us interesting insights to potential bottlenecks that can be found along the native potato chains”, Helen Hambly noted. “In Peru farmers grow thousands of varieties, however very few make it to Lima to be sold in markets. Are women growers particularly impacted by this?”, she wondered, as she is also a gender specialist.

For Graham Thiele, RTB Director, “the meeting really helped the PAC come together as a team. All members showed a high level of understanding of the opportunities and challenges of RTB, and I believe they now have a better insight into the way we’ve been working so far”.

The next steps for the RTB team involve giving more inputs to the PAC on different ongoing activities such as priority assessment of research activities, monitoring and evaluation, and gender. Final recommendations also included incorporating the ex-situ conservation of genetic resources into the scientific enterprise, and reaching out to universities to entice post-graduate students to consider roots, tubers and bananas in their research.

“It will be interesting to see what the team is up to in six months’ time”, Helen Hambly observed.

At the Larco Museum