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Guardians of native potatoes join forces in Central Peru

Aug 27 2014   |   By: veronique   |   0   |  

Indigenous farmers from dozens of highland communities who recently met near the city of Huancayo founded the Asociación de Guardianes de Papa Nativa del Centro de Perú (AGUAPAN), or Native Potato Guardians’ Association of Central Peru, which will contribute to the economic and social well-being of the region’s smallholders while strengthening their conservation of potato diversity.

“The families of small-scale farmers in the places of origin of crops play a special role in their conservation and evolution, especially those custodian families who maintain exceptionally rich collections of native varieties,” explains Stef de Haan, leader of the Genetic Resource Program at the International Potato Center (CIP), one of the organizations supporting the initiative. “This is acknowledged in international treaties under the concept of ‘benefit sharing’, which proposes that these families and communities be recognized and compensated for the work they are doing. However, in practice, there are few examples of implementation of this concept”.

AGUAPAN has 43 members, from the same number of communities in five potato-growing departments of central Peru. The initiative is supported by the Dutch company HZPC, as part of its corporate social responsibility policy, Peru’s National Institute of Agricultural Innovation (INIA), the Peruvian Society of Environmental Law (SPDA), the Peruvian nonprofit grupo Yanapai, and CIP.

Board of Directors of AGUAPAN

The Board of Directors of AGUAPAN taking the oath

Various criteria were used to select the men and women participating in AGUAPAN. They are individuals who are recognized by their community and/or an institution as custodians of native potato diversity; they maintain at least 50 cultivars; they need support; they neither belong to the same community nor are directly related to another candidate; and the ratio of men and women promotes gender equity.

The 43 farmers held their first meeting at INIA’s Santa Ana Station, outside Huancayo, on July 10. After formally constituting and naming the association, they worked in groups to reach decisions regarding legal aspects, the initial investment and perceived benefits.

The benefits the farmers want include technological assistance to improve their production (seeds, fertilizer, pest and disease control, and assistance in dealing with adverse climate factors), and recognition of the role of custodians and of native potatoes as part of Peru’s national heritage. They also agreed on the need for access to more arable land; economic support such as loans, subsidies and grants; better education of the children in farming communities, and better healthcare and nutritional support for families.

The farmers decided that custodian families should receive cash in order to decide what the most effective investments are, though the funds should be used in activities relating to the conservation of native potatoes and/or for improving the families’ health, education and well-being. Each family would have to justify their investments to the association’s board, which will be elected during AGUAPAN’s next meeting.

One member, Juana Segama, from Allato, Huancavelica, says that the greatest challenge for her is to find a market for her potatoes. “I grow native potatoes as my mother did before me, and my grandfather before her,” she explains. “I have 214 varieties, but I always have excess seed. I hope that the association will help me – and others – to sell them in Huancayo, and perhaps in Lima. Transportation to the city has always been a problem,” she adds.

Espirita Guerrero: Treasurer of AGUAPAN

Espirita Guerrero: Treasurer of AGUAPAN

Espirita Guerrero, from San José de Aymara, Huancavelica, says she needs contacts to be able to take her native potato harvest to other markets. She grows some 180 varieties in her chacra (field). “In my house, potatoes are the main dish on our table,” says Guerrero, who is now the treasurer of AGUAPAN. “My family is very proud of me for taking part in this initiative. I hope that we can make progress on the topic of markets at the next meeting of the association, which will be in September. The association is going to help us to conserve our potato varieties, so that they are not lost.”

The concept of benefit sharing appears, in particular, in the International Treaty on Plant Resources for Food and Agriculture. More information at:

International Potato Center upgrades Farmer Business School program in Philippines

Aug 25 2014   |   By: cip-foodstart   |   0   |  

Having been successful in Cordillera, the FBS will be upgraded in other areas in the country by the International Potato Center, popularly known globally as the Centro International de la Papa (CIP).

However, CIP is integrating climate-smart practices in the FBS curriculum that will be reflected on the training manual for FBS facilitators. This initiative is in collaboration with the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

“We have a whole set of the FBS manual. We’re integrating climate change perspectives into this to upscale to other areas. In Cordillera DA-CHARM Program, climate change is embedded through the criteria in the selection of enterprises. A proposed enterprise has to conform to environment-friendly practice like waste disposal or natural-based farm practices” said Julieta Roa, CIP collaborating researcher in a climate change media forum organized by CCAFS South East Asia.

The FBS has enabled farmers, together with local government unit (LGU) technician and Department of Agriculture (DA) field staff, to come up with business plans. These farmers are the targeted beneficiaries of the Second Cordillera Highland Agricultural Resource Management Project (CHARMP2), an investment program funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in northern Philippines. The partnership of FoodSTART and CHARMP2 started in 2011 with a value chain training course in Baguio where FoodSTART provided technical support to agro-enterprise development activities of CHARMP2.

Having the business plan enables small farmer groups, called “livelihood interest groups” (LIGs), to access financing facility of the DA..” said Roa. LIGs have 15-30 members. Funding per business plan is P50,000 to P100,000, just to enable start of the businesses. “They cannot access the livelihood assistance fund (LAF) of DA-DHARMP2 if they do not have a business plan.

Among the businesses Cordillera farmers are engage in is roots and tubers like sweetpotato, potato, and taro (gabi). Taro chips, sweetpotato (camote) chips and other rootcrop chips will be sold under the brand “Tatak Cordillera.” Spearheaded by CHARMP2 and FoodSTART, these business enterprises were launched last December 4, 2013 at the Baguio Convention Center.

They have different kinds of indigenous or creatively-grown rootcrops like “baliling”, which is a local version of England’s crop circles. They also have organic vegetables (cucumber, lettuce, carrots, alfalfa), coffee, native pigs, and muscovado.

CIP is promoting roots and tubers like potato and sweetpotato to raise food security especially as these are considered climate smart crops, and nutrient-rich. Even in Yolanda-stricken areas in Leyte and Samar, the crops that survived are the sweetpotato, cassava, and other rootcrops.

As a requirement for healthful native pig raising, Cordillera farmers use for nutrition supplementation indigenous microorganisms, fermented fruit juice, fermented plant juice, fish amino acid preparation, and organic feed using rootcrops. These are also easy to grow. indigenous feedstuff. They also use an environment-friendly “pakusot” breeding system.

Through the program, farmers are also being linked to other potential funding institutions specifically for equipment acquisition. These are the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which participated the business launch.

The business plan is the basis for enterprise development. Farmers are taught how to define the organization, market, and what product and plan on operational management, production system, and financing.

Farmers have so far accessed La Trinidad Organic Practitioners (LaTOP), a supermarket for organic vegetable in Benguet.

The FBS has really focused on value chain of enterprise in order to help farmers raise their potential income. The FBS is an intensive program covering six months to one year that culminates in a business launch.

Farmers are also now accessing certified organic vegetable markets.

“A market service provider (MSP) is part of business development support service.” said Roa. Three MSPs are now hired from a target of six.

The program does not just pick any cooperative, nor impose farmer groups to become cooperatives due to past failures.

“The LIGs can register with DOLE or DTI. Voluntarism is a principle of cooperativism. When group members chooses to become one, then they will be assisted.”

Aside from Philippines, CIP-FoodSTART also works in Sichuan and Guangxi, China; West Papua, Indonesia, northern Bangladesh, and Meghalaya and Odisha, India.

Edited by: Angelica Barlis, CIP-FoodSTART Communication Specialist and Julieta Roa (CIP Collaborating Researcher)

Original article by Melody M. Aguiba published on:

SPHI “Through the lens of a camera” 2014 Photo Contest

Aug 13 2014   |   By: saraquinn   |   0   |  

You could be the lucky 1st prize winner of $120 or the lucky person to go down in sweetpotato history! The top 5 photos will be featured on our popular Sweetpotato Knowledge Portal.

There are two competition categories: SPHI at Work and Promoting Orange-Fleshed Sweetpotato (OFSP). For more details on how to enter please visit the Sweetpotato Knowledge Portal and for inspiration read this blog and see last year’s winners!

The prizes for the top 3 photographs in each category are: 1st Prize: $120, 2nd prize: $70 and 3rd prize: $45 and the winning photographs will be displayed at the SPHI 5th Annual Technical Meeting to be held in Nairobi from September 9-11.

Please send your photos to before 5pm (NBO) on Friday, 22 August 2014. Best of luck to you all!

CIP’s Mama SASHA Project (Sweetpotato Action for Security and Health in Africa) featured at the Experimental Biology Conference

Aug 11 2014   |   By: path-cpad   |   0   |  

In April 2014, scientific findings from two PATH projects – the Mama Sweetpotato Action for Security and Health in Africa (Mama SASHA) project and the Infant and Young Child Nutrition (IYCN) project – were presented at the Experimental Biology Conference in San Diego, California. The conference is an annual meeting comprised of over 14,000 scientists from around the world and exhibitors representing six sponsoring societies and multiple guest societies. The conference brings together leading global nutrition scientists and public health nutrition practitioners. At the conference, the Mama SASHA and IYCN projects were highlighted in four oral presentations and four poster sessions.

These two Kenyan-designed and tested innovations offer health facility, community, and household solutions to promote maternal, infant and child health, and nutrition:

  • The Mama SASHA project – led by the International Potato Center (CIP) and PATH’s Kenya Country Program – integrates agriculture and nutrition into prenatal healthcare to maximize the benefits of orange flesh sweet potato (OFSP). OFSP is an important source of energy and beta-carotene, also known as pro-Vitamin A, which is essential for mothers and young children.
  • As part of the global IYCN project, PATH sought to reduce child malnutrition in the first 1000 days by engaging men and grandmothers to improve maternal dietary and infant and young child feeding practices.

Experimental Biology Conference

Photo: PATH Stephanie Martin presents findings from the IYCN Project


Both projects demonstrated cross-program and multi-partner collaboration, and specifically:

  • Strived for optimal integration into Kenya’s existing health care delivery system;
  • Leveraged support through USAID’s APHIA II Western and APHIAPLUS Western platform projects in western Kenya;
  • Developed collaborative partnerships at the local, national, and international levels;
  • Included partnership with academic and research institutions;
  • Employed rigorous evaluation designs, including formative studies to design locally appropriate interventions, process evaluation activities, and outcomes evaluations with comparison groups;
  • Resulted in invitations for publication in special issues of highly renowned peer reviewed publications and a request for assembly of a future special symposium for Experimental Biology in 2015; and
  • Demonstrated the value of producing and disseminating evidence of the highest scientific rigor.

Please contact Dr. Frederick Grant (, Mama SASHA project coordinator, or Dr. Allison Bingham (, Mama SASHA PATH studies representative, with any questions regarding the Mama SASHA Project. Please contact Denise Lionetti (, MCHN Project Director, with any questions regarding the IYCN Project.

For further information about the Mama SASHA project please visit the Sweetpotato Knowledge Portal and the CIP website. You can view this Youtube video all about this innovative project.

Drought Management and Resilience Building: From Ecosystem to Plant Functional Traits

Jul 30 2014   |   By: david_ramirez   |   0   |  

Challenges posed by climate change and land use

As part of its strategic objective of enhancing food security, CIP is proposing a diversification and intensification of cereal-based cropping systems in Asia using early maturing, or “agile” potatoes. The potatoes that will be introduced into cereal cropping systems need to be agile, or precocious genotypes with growing periods of 70-80 days and the ability to endure various biotic and abiotic stresses. At the same time, intensification will require responsible agricultural practices to avoid water waste, nutrient loss, carbon emissions among others.

Central Asia is dominated by grassland and rangeland, followed by sparse vegetation deserts. Agricultural land covers more than 21% of Central Asia, and roughly 30% of this cultivated land is under irrigation. Uzbekistan has the largest irrigated area (>80% of the cultivated land), whereas Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have the lowest (<13%).

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scenarios for the region predict that atmospheric temperature will increase, which will result in greater evapotranspiration, canceling out the moderate increase of precipitation predicted for some areas. Increases in annual temperature have already been reported for the region, which has experienced a noticeable reduction in ice and permanent snow cover as glaciers melt and snowfall decreases. Another problem that the region faces is increasing soil salinization (both in rate and extension), which is the result of water withdrawal (e.g. Aral Sea reduction), saline groundwater levels and suboptimal irrigation and drainage management. The abandonment of irrigated areas has consequently increased.

Resilience, Drought and Scales

Resilience is the capacity of an ecosystem to absorb shocks without losing its structure and function. Ecosystems move into different states through succession, and some of those states are more resilient than others. However, external factors such as resource overuse, inappropriate management and natural disasters can push an ecosystem into an undesirable state that is difficult to move out of. According to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment classification, ecosystems provide “provisioning services,” which include food, fiber, fuel, genetic resources and clean water, and “supporting services,” which include carbon sequestration, nutrient or water cycling and soil formation. Inappropriate management practices or resource overexploitation erode the capacity of an ecosystem to provide these services and can push it into a highly stable, degraded state. One of the mechanisms ecosystems have for avoiding this is response diversity: if a perturbation causes the loss of a function, response diversity allows for it to be compensated by a homologue function.

Response diversity reduces sensibility to disturbance and fosters the capacity to adapt to varied scenarios, which helps to enhance operating resilience across different scales.

CIP's Durbek Khalikov showing an experiment with the Partial Root-Zone Drying (PRD) technique
CIP's Durbek Khalikov showing an experiment with the Partial Root-Zone Drying (PRD) technique

In the context of resilience, there are two types of droughts: meteorological drought and agricultural drought. Meteorological drought is when total precipitation is below the minimum required to maintain fundamental ecosystem services. Agricultural drought is when there is not enough plant-available soil moisture in the root zone. Agricultural drought is driven by inappropriate land management and is very common. For example, in rain-fed savannah cropping systems, only 30% of rainfall reaches the root zone because 70% is lost to evaporation, interception, drainage and surface runoff. Agricultural drought can be reduced by good soil management. For example, some soils in the Sahel are prone to the formation of a crust that reduces water infiltration. De Goede and Brussaard (2002) tested the incorporation of mulch (wood shavings) and termites into the soil and found that after three years, agricultural drought was reduced and plant cover and diversity increased significantly. The termites accelerated the decomposition of the wood shavings, adding organic matter to the soil, while the canals they constructed to link their colonies increased soil porosity and water infiltration. However, if water scarcity crosses a threshold, nothing can be done to produce more food or other ecosystem services, and the only solution is to rely on “resilience parachutes” such as food relief, cereal banks, social networks and conservation.

Conversion of natural systems for agriculture causes depletion of soil organic carbon (SOC) pools (by approximately 60% and 70% in temperate and tropical soils respectively). Grasslands and sparse vegetation are the main land cover in Central Asia, and data for the last 80 years show that SOC has increased in these ecosystems, which indicates that rangelands are carbon sinks. However, there was a net loss of soil carbon in cultivated areas, both rainfed and irrigated. Central and South Asia are considered global soil degradation hotspots, making these regions high priorities for soil restoration and the resumption of carbon sequestration. The concept of response diversity can inform the implementation of alternative mechanisms to compensate for the loss of carbon sequestration. Some authors propose the conservation, restoration, and appropriate management (avoiding overgrazing) of the rangeland ecosystems in order to compensate for carbon emissions from the intensification of agriculture. At the same time, it will be necessary to improve the soil carbon sequestration capacity of cropping systems through practices such as no-till farming, efficient irrigation (drip irrigation, partial root-zone drying) water conservation and harvesting, nutrient management (mulching) and other conservation agriculture strategies.

Two studies provide insight into to how to measure drought resilience in breeding programs. Chapuis et al. (2012) analyzed 14 environmental contexts (France, Chile and Hungary) and 19 maize hybrids, and estimated a drought index as the mean of soil water potential (a physical variable related to soil water availability) during a period spanning from 10 days before to 10 days after male flowering (a key developmental stage). The resilience for each hybrid was estimated as the slope of the response curve between seed numbers per plant and drought index in each environment. Low slope (high resilience) means that the variation of drought index (in different environments) has low effect in yield. This result was coherent with the resilience estimated in a phenotyping platform (phenodym) of potted plants in greenhouse conditions. In another study, Kahiluoto et al. (2014) defined 12 phenology-based agro-climatic parameters that are critical for barley performance in Finland. Two kinds of diversities were calculated using the Shannon Diversity index: a) Type Diversity was based on the numbers of cultivars used in an area, while b) Response Diversity to weather was based on the yield response of genotypes to the agro-climatic parameters. Despite a steady increase in barley cultivar diversity, the diversity of response to weather declined during the last decade in the regions with highest barley productivity in Finland.

Experiment with mulch
Experiment with mulch

CIP’s strategic objective number two (SO2) highlights the requirement of “resilient and competitive” potato varieties. However, what kind of traits must be prioritized to get these resilient genotypes? Some authors highlight two main reasons for choosing a trait: It must be scalable at different levels (from the leaf to the canopy) and it must be integrative across the growing period. François Tardieu from the French National Institute for Agronomic Research (INRA) stresses that the selection of a trait should depend on the drought scenario. Thus, in mild water stress conditions (which is the most common scenario in agriculture) it is much better to prioritize individuals with a risky or opportunistic behavior, such as higher carbon assimilation, stomatal conductance and transpiration, that enables to take advantage of water pulses. However, under terminal or severe drought, it is more important to select plants that reduce stomatal conductance to save water, which increases the intrinsic water use efficiency, defined as assimilated carbon per transpired water. It doesn’t make sense to search for genotypes with high water use efficiency in scenarios of mild water stress. A resilient genotype is one that has a high diversity of traits to respond to different drought scenarios.

Closing Observations

  • Response diversity is crucial to keeping an ecosystem in desirable states. Some proxies used to measured response diversity can help the assessment of resilience at different scales.
  • SOC is a component that reflects environmental health, and its measurement and monitoring are crucial for assessing land management. CIP and EMBRAPA have developed some techniques for measuring SOC stocks in the field using Laser-Induced breakdown and Fluorescence Spectroscopy technologies.
  • The definition of drought scenarios is important for prioritizing the choice of traits, drought targeting and phenotyping. The identification of key environmental factors during some critical phenological stages (i.e. tuber initiation onset in potato, conversion of adventitious to reserve roots in sweetpotato), type of agriculture (rain-fed or irrigation) and the simulation of water demand via modeling will be crucial for the drought targeting of root and tuber crops based on experiences in cereals.
  • Research on the interaction of drought with biotic (microorganism infections, pests) and abiotic (heat, salinity) stresses will be necessary for achieving SO2 goals.


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