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CIP LIMA Staff Profile: Post-Doctoral Scientist in Plant Virology, Integrated Crop and System Research (ICS)

Sep 19 2014   |   By: cpad   |   0   |  

Dina L. Gutierrez likes sweetpotatoes. Her favorite way to eat a sweetpotato is after they have been left in the sun for a few days, to bring out the sweetness, followed by a simple bake in the oven. Simple and delicious. This Peruvian, born and raised in Lima – a true “Limeña”-, got her start at CIP during her undergraduate studies. Dina attended Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina, earning a bachelor´s degree in biology. In order to finish her undergraduate degree Dina took an internship at CIP, working within the virology unit. “My internship was spent working at the virology lab and interacting with farmers during the survey of sweetpotato viruses at the Cañete Valley in Lima, Peru. This survey helped me understand farmers better, and how I could help and contribute with my knowledge.” Once completing her undergraduate degree and the thesis option, she moved on to obtain her PhD. at Louisiana State University (LSU) in plant health.

In Guinea

Following her first post doc job in biomedical sciences, Dina was ready to get back to work with plants, having been hooked on plant health from her start with CIP in the late 90s. CIP helped to shape her future career by exposing her to the world of plant virology and she found encouragement, guidance and support through her mentors at CIP, the scientists Segundo Fuentes and Luis F. Salazar.

Being back at CIP has produced many great moments for Dina. One of her favorite ones to recall is her first encounter with many country staff from Lima - not in the South American country, but far away: “It was my first month working back at CIP and I was in Africa carrying out sweetpotato surveys. During an international conference on “The Roots (and tubers) of Development and Climate Change” in Nigeria, I kept meeting all these interesting co-workers. That was quite a start. At the conference, our team, led by Jan Kreuze, received a poster award for ‘Determining the Pan-African Sweetpotato Virome: Understanding Virus Diversity, Distribution and Evolution and their Impacts on Sweetpotato Production in Africa’. I worked on this project with Martine Z-Tachin, from the University of Benin, along with other contributors.”

In Zambia

Dina’s biggest challenge was when she took on the task of organizing the international workshop on “Small RNA library preparation and sequence assembly for virus identification”. This training workshop combined both practical theory and hands-on research into small RNA libraries and virus identification. There was a misperception about the climate between the northern and southern hemisphere. In Lima it was winter while some participants came ready for the summer sun and were not prepared for the cold!

For Dina, the greatest feature of CIP’s Integrated Crop and System Research efforts is getting the chance to work hands-on with a multidisciplinary team. “The research area at CIP is great. Experience in technology and methods can be limited at other institutions or organizations while at CIP, scientists are often given the opportunity to work in both lab and field. The chance to do both helps to show the entire picture of CIP’s involvement in food security.”

In Malawi

Sweetpotato gives hope: Ensuring climate-smart food systems, livelihoods and resilience

Sep 11 2014   |   By: angelica-barlis-cpad   |   0   |  

In a media seminar workshop co-organized by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security in South East Asia (CCAFS-SEA) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) from 14-15 August 2014, sweetpotato caught the attention of the participants, mostly agricultural journalists and broadcasters in the Philippines.

Image Source: It's More FUn in Albay Blog

Eating sweetpotato, more fun in the Philippines?

Until recently, sweetpotato, “camote” to the Filipinos, has been an undervalued crop. Some participants at the media workshop shared anecdotes related to sweetpotato. One journalist recalled that whenever he got low scores, his grade school teacher would say, “You should go home and just plant camote.” Another participant said that he associates camote with poverty. During his childhood, when they could not afford rice, they only had sweetpotato for their meals. These are common misperceptions about sweetpotato in the Philippines – the crop is “lowly” and often associated with underperforming, incompetent students.

Representing CIP during the media forum was Dr. Julieta Roa, a collaborating researcher of CIP-FoodSTART. She was also the former director of Philippine Root Crop Research and Training Center (PhilRootcrops), CIP’s national program partner in the Philippines. Dr. Roa enumerated several cases in the country where sweetpotato had played a crucial role in disaster recovery. CIP’s presentation gave the participants a clearer understanding of the importance and uses of sweetpotato – for both nutrition and food security.

Sweetpotato takes center stage in disaster situations

As the other PMCA/MarketLink pilot area, CIP, PhRootcrops-VSU and local partners established sweetpotato as a critical staple food base for disaster-readiness. Different MarketLink activities were conducted to improve farmers’ livelihoods and incomes through value-added interventions to sweetpotato with products such as sweetpotato muffins, noodles, doughnuts, flour-based products, pastries, ice-cream, fresh roots packs, even handicrafts from dried SP vines. Consumer awareness was carried out through exhibits in Agri-Fiesta and Magayon festivals, and fashion show food feature, in addition to media promotion and advocacy. The program undoubtedly aided the province of Albay to be more resilient to natural and economic vulnerabilities. The provincial leadership of Albay is now proactive in making sweetpotato an important food crop for climate-smart agriculture, especially since Bicol is in the path of a major typhoon.

Sweetpotato wine and fresh roots complete with labels and packaging from Albay province

Super Typhoon Yolanda (November 2013)

The strongest tropical cyclone in recorded history to hit the Philippines left the country with some 6,300 deaths and 31 billion pesos (708.3 US dollars) damage to the agriculture sector. Eastern Visayas, the home of CIP’s national program partner Visayas State University-PhilRootcrops, was severely hit. PhilRootcrops led or cooperated in the short-term response to the typhoon-stricken communities. Beneath the fallen coconut trees, or in open fields and on slopes, sweetpotato survived. Communities with fresh roots available did not have such severe food crises as those without. Sweetpotato served as local food supply until the relief efforts arrived.

Sweetpotato planting materials for distribution to households affected by the typhoon (Photo by:PhilRootcrops)

Distribution of sweetpotato planting materials in Southern Leyte after an orientation-appreciation symposium on RTCs for food security, livelihoods, and climate-smart farming (Photo by: PhilRootcrops)

CIP and PhilRootcrops targeted the victims of volcanic eruptions and typhoons from the provinces of Tarlac in Central Luzon and Albay in the Bicol Region as program beneficiaries. The multi-partnership program “Enhancing Research Utilization through Sweetpotato Livelihood Development in Disaster-Prone Communities” adapted the Participatory Market Chain Approach (PMCA) – the R&D method developed by CIP to stimulate innovation along market chains by enhancing stakeholder collaboration and level of trust. Known as the MarketLINK (i.e. Philippine adaptation), the program aimed to: (a) improve sweetpotato productivity and farm incomes of resource-poor farmers; and (b) address food insecurity by applying research outputs in exploiting market opportunities, and by training local partners in business development through the PMCA process . Interventions include]: supplying sweetpotato clean planting materials (CPM), improving farmer production practices, postproduction and processing innovations, as well as promoting sweetpotato diversity. Social marketing was an integral component, designed to change the negative attitude of many consumers regarding camote. The activities were carried out in international and local exhibits, agri-fairs and festivals, symposia, and even fashion shows, promoting sweetpotato products for health and nutrition, and livelihoods. The program was funded by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) from 2009 to 2012.

Mount Pinatubo Eruption (June 1991)

After the eruption, sweetpotato production areas were greatly reduced. A complex of sweetpotato viruses spread through all sweetpotato areas in Central Luzon; resulting in decreased yield and incomes among mostly smallholder farmers. Confronted with this situation, the program promoted the use of tissue-culture-generated clean planting materials (CPM) from Tarlac College of Agriculture (TCA); and C2 generation plantlets were produced by Mayantoc Cooperative as a CPM enterprise. CPM was used to develop off-season camote production in 14 lahar-laden ‘barangays’ [communities] of Concepcion, Tarlac; which then become sources of C3-C4 generation CPM for farmers in Tarlac, Bataan, and Pampanga. By the end of the project in 2012, the virus challenge had been dealt with; thus increasing the yield to at least 20 tons/ha, and incomes to at least 100% among adopters. Virus indexing was done by the Institute of Plant Breeding-University of the Philippines Los Banos (IPB-UPLB) using the CIP Elisa kit.

Using the PMCA/MarketLink platform, the program helped farmers and local entrepreneurs to identify market opportunities, and set up SP micro-enterprises, by providing training on processing and business aspects. The start-up value chains, such as sweetpotato wine, vinegar, candy, jam, fresh roots and flour-based products, require further business development services to improve facilities, packaging, and supply chain, if production and markets are to be sustained.

Mayon Volcano Eruption and Super Typhoon “Reming” (November 2006)

When the volcanic eruption had calmed down and the evacuees had returned to their homes, Typhoon Reming (Durian) swept across the Bicol, dislodging volcanic debris and causing mudslides that killed about 1,000 residents.

In Albay, in particular, farms, properties, and lives were lost; hunger was rife and livelihoods seriously destroyed. The agriculture sector was devastated; even sweetpotato was greatly reduced due to the hot volcanic flows. Early in 2007, the local leadership of Albay turned to mass growing of sweetpotato as buffer food during this crisis situation: three truckloads of planting materials of hybrids were shipped from PhilRootcrops-Visayas State University in Leyte. During the 2009-2012 PCAARRD-funded sweetpotato program, sweetpotato nurseries (with a total of 240,942 cuttings) were established by the provincial local government unit (LGU) in eight towns and three cities of Albay to provide quality planting materials for food, as well as livelihoods. After few months, ca. 256,700 sweetpotato vine cuttings were distributed to home gardens, LGU nurseries, Farmer Field School (FFS) demo sites and pilot school gardens in Albay.

Sweetpotato, the lone survivor among local crops after Typhoon Haiyan (Photo by: PhilRootcrops)

With the livelihoods and incomes of the typhoon victims badly affected, root crops, especially sweetpotato, were planted in coconut farm systems as part of the medium-term response. Sweetpotato and cassava planting materials were distributed to households by the LGUs, Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), Red Cross, and the Department of Agriculture, both for food and income. This posed a shortage in root and tuber crops (RTC) planting materials. To address this, VSU-PhilRootcrops and some LGUs north and south of Leyte Island province developed RTC nurseries in their stations and selected farmer-cooperators to supply continuing needs, and for disaster mitigation. Some local executives also support value-added RTC processing for income generation. VSU-PhilRootcrops leads the activities on monitoring, status of RTCs, planting material distribution, nurseries, capacity-building and nutrition awareness, and advocacy.

Participants of CCAFS-SEA media workshop piloting in the Philippines

Evidence strengthened support from media on climate change reporting

After presenting the outcomes of evidence-based action research and the roles of RTCs in climate change situations, the media group created clamor and anticipation on new stories of successes and breakthroughs of sweetpotato and other RTCs as super foods and resilient crops. Appreciation of the media’s role in disseminating accurate climate change information was emphasized. Dr. Leo Sebastian, CCAFS Regional Program Leader for South East Asia, posed a challenge to the participants: “You have to make sure that our message creates outcomes and impact.”

The media event was instrumental in making the practitioners realize the importance of root and tuber crops. The workshop was also tailored to highlight the roles and contributions of each CG center in adapting and mitigating climate change. The organizers will replicate the media workshop across South East Asia, particularly in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Besides CIP-Philippines, other research centers such as IRRI, World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) and WorldFish shared their programs and activities on climate change and agriculture. In addition, representatives from the Philippine government (Department of Agriculture and Department of Science and Technology) and NGOs (Catholic Media Network and Redraw the Line-Media Alliance) also imparted their own work and initiatives on climate change.

Orange-Fleshed Sweetpotato for Africa Catalogue for 2014

Sep 08 2014   |   By: sara-quinn-cpad   |   0   |  

The International Potato Center (CIP) and its partners are breeding and promoting OFSP as a food-based approach to combat Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) and related health problems in SSA. Currently, about 32% of children in Africa under the age of five suffer from of VAD. The transition to OFSP has been a marginal change because the white-fleshed sweetpotato variety is already prevalent in many people’s diet. Our studies have shown that OFSP is highly acceptable to many rural African women, men and children and that integrated agriculture-nutrition education campaigns can significantly reduce the prevalence of VAD among young children.

Most of the varieties are being grown by farmers in at least one country, while the others are set to be released soon. A large percent of the varieties are important parents in breeding programs to improve levels of β-carotene, root dry matter, and resistance to sweetpotato virus disease in the region. Some of the varieties are landraces from African countries while others are introduced germplasm from the United States, South America, and Asia, and have been found to be adapted to particular environments in SSA.

The catalogue is arranged with one OFSP variety per page, with each page containing morphological characteristics, root attributes, and other major attributes along with consumer and processing qualities of the variety.

This catalogue is a fantastic reference for anyone working with OFSP in SSA. The information will be relevant to different stakeholders, scientists, development practitioners, extensionists, and donors.

The production of the catalogue was accomplished with funding from the Sweetpotato Action for Security and Health in Africa (SASHA) project. Dr. Jan Low, SASHA project leader, allowed extensive travels to collect data from different countries, and provided valuable guidance.

Dr. Low is thrilled to be launching the updated version of the catalogue. “The updated catalogue is a clear reflection of the growing importance and relevance of OFSP in Sub-Saharan Africa and reflects the hard work and commitment of staff and researchers on breeding new varieties of OFSP”, she says.

The OFSP catalogue can be downloaded from the CIP website here. For information on how to obtain varieties, please contact one of the offices listed at the back of the catalogue or the CIP regional office for SSA in Nairobi, Kenya. Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) is helping launch the catalogue at the “Implementation of Seed Policy and Reforms for the Benefits of Smallholder Farmers” Seminar on September 3rd.

With thanks to:

Dr. Maria Isabel Andrade (CIP Mozambique), Mr. Jose Ricardo (IIAM Mozambique), Dr. Gorrettie Semakula (NaCRRI - NARO, Uganda), Dr. Felistus Chipungu (Bvumbwe Research Station, Malawi), Dr. Laura Karanja (KARI-Njoro Research Station, Kenya), Dr. Martin Chiona (Zambia Agricultural Research Institute), Dr. Jude Njoku (National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike - Nigeria), Dr. Kiddo Mtunda (Sugarcane Research Institute-Kibaha, Tanzania), Mr. Kwado Adofo (CSIR, Ghana) and Mr. Jean Ndirigwe (Rwanda Agriculture Board, Rwanda) agreed to include their released or near release varieties into the new edition of the catalogue.

Various people in different countries assisted with data collection: Elias Munda in Mozambique, Agnes Alajo, Moses Okoboi, Joweria Namakula, Benjamin Kigozi and Mukwaya for Uganda, Dr. Putri Ernawati Abidin, John Kazembe, Precious Nyasulu and Miswell Chitete for Malawi.

The sweetpotato breeders made useful comments during their annual meeting in Rwanda (April 2013).

We deeply appreciate the efforts of the graphics team in Lima, Peru to make this catalogue visually appealing to the user.

Insights from the field: Capturing Stories and Lessons from CIP Sweetpotato Projects in Sub-Saharan Africa

Sep 02 2014   |   By: sara-quinn-cpad   |   0   |  

CIP’s sweetpotato projects recently launched a new series of pamphlets aimed at reflecting on and learning from field experiences. Titled ‘Insights from the Field’, they encouraged participants to soak up the knowledge gained from their time spent working in the field on their project.

The short series focus on specific case studies and stories from programs which help to put a human face on the work that CIP does. The stories ranged from reflecting on how a simple cooking class can change lives in rural Tanzania to learning lessons from a project that brought orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP) to rural parts of Mozambique to promoting the concept ‘together we are stronger’ based on experiences in North Western Tanzania.

This reflection process is an important part of monitoring and evaluation as it allows participants to discuss the merits and challenges of a project and to learn from one another. “I would say these stories are a true testimony that what we are doing at CIP is not mechanical, but that real people are being reached, actual lives are being transformed, communities are impacted and capacities being build. The stories convey outcomes and impacts of our collaborative efforts,” said Godfrey Mulungo, one of the authors of the flyers and the Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist with the ‘Reaching Agents for Change’ project in Tanzania.

The authors were encouraged to really explore how things happened differently across countries and regions within an abundance of circumstances. The process helped staff to deepen their own understanding and to share these valuable experiences.

The flyers can be found at the Sweetpotato Knowledge Portal. Share in our insights by reading the following flyers:

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: