This is the first Blog Update from Roots, Tuber and Bananas Program Director Graham Thiele.

I am beginning a regular blog to keep you up-to-date about the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB for short). The RTB began 1st of January. In just six months we have accomplished a lot together.  It’s not all plain sailing, but my excitement at leading this incredible program still hasn’t worn off!

We have recruited most of the Program Management Unit (PMU) staff including:  Javier Madelengoitia  as Grants and Contracts Specialist, Veronique Durroux-Malpartida as Communication Specialist and Zandra Vasquez as Executive Assistant. We just  moved to our new offices at CIP-HQ and look forward to seeing you when you come to Lima.

The RTB Management Committee has done a great job providing hands-on decision making to guide us through program start up. The original members have been joined recently by eight Theme leaders. Theme leaders are playing a key role in developing our cross cutting research.  You can find out more about Management Committee.

You can download a pdf of the current version of the Product Portfolio at:

The CRP requires a whole new set of contractual responsibilities. Our Grants and Contracts specialists have developed a flexible arrangement for the Partnership Performance Agreement  (PPA). This includes a framework agreement with the contractual conditions, and the base funding which each CG partner receives, to deliver the 2012 milestones of the Product Portfolio. In addition, there are task orders for additional funding. This includes complementary funding (gap funding) from the Consortium in addition to the base funding.

The process to develop project profiles (mini-proposals) for the use of complementary funding is nearly completed. RTB scientists have prepared and presented a diverse set of 11 profiles ranging from an ambitious proposal to link genotyping, phenotyping and the application of this to heterosis breeding; to learning about partnerships. Over the past six weeks there has been intense interaction among our scientists who have come together in new ways to make this possible and show that the RTB concept really makes sense.

We have spent a lot of time thinking about our communication strategy and one of the immediate fruits is the attractive and well-designed new webpage which you accessed to read my blog.

I mentioned that it hasn’t all been plain sailing. One of the biggest challenges has been to make progress on gender research. This is going to be really important to enhance our impact and promote gender equity. But we struggled to name a gender focal point in each Center and include a gender dimension in our research planning. We have recently developed a gender research action plan and are investing in gender research with our complementary funding. I am supporting this process directly by recruiting a part-time gender specialist for the PMU.

Another big challenge has been to engage strategic partners both upstream from the Advanced Research Institutes and downstream from national research organizations. CIRAD (the French acronym for Agricultural Research for Development) and other French institutes have been especially keen to link with us. We are working on a plan to map out strategic partners and see how we can work with them more closely, perhaps bringing a few key organizations into our Steering Committee or advisory group.

I hope this blog has been helpful. I am always available ( to provide more information and am interested to hear your ideas to make the RTB even more of a success.

Graham Thiele

RTB Program Director

(note: First two photos by Neil Palmer (CIAT)