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The Secret to Potato Mapping

Aug 19 2013   |   By: rory   |   0   |  

The International Potato Center (CIP) requires detailed geographic and analytical mapping, as well as data exploration tools in order to successfully spearhead and administer a great deal of its diverse projects. CIP’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) consists of a crack team of dedicated researchers, cartographers, and programmers that collaborate and support CIP projects by anticipating adverse effects such as erosion, urbanization, tourism, mining, and climate change on the biodiverse hot-spots of all potato species. The work is detailed, diverse, and to a large degree - groundbreaking; but what exactly does geographical mapping have to do with potato science, and what impacts does GIS have on the development of CIP activities?

Actually quite a lot, as it would turn out.

Henry Juarez, a CIP Associate Researcher who leads the GIS department, explains that GIS was primarily started as a means to support the collection of germplasm for the genebank, and “allow researchers to explore potential locations for growing and finding new strains of tubers.” From there the potential of GIS took off considerably and is now a fundamental part of many research projects carried out by the Center.

An interesting area of support given by the GIS to CIP is the mapping of areas to show the visible effects of climate change on potato production. Geographic information collected by GIS is relevant to a wide range of different CIP projects that study the effects of climate change on potato production. Another area where the information is useful is to help analyze migration patterns and the effects of mining on potato production, both of which, “Are shown to have definitive impacts on potato cultivation throughout Peru,” according to Juarez.

While support is given to a number of crosscutting projects, another important task delegated to the GIS department is to help provide the genebank and the genetic resources department with a gap analysis of potato, sweetpotato, and other Andean roots and tubers (ARTs). A gap analysis is a term used to measure and identify gaps in the conservation of biodiversity by comparing projections against the evolution of collected materials over time in a large area. “This project is large,” says Juarez, “as it includes incorporating all the information collected by CIP for over 40 years of fieldwork, into a map.” The gap analysis will give CIP scientists a much stronger idea of what varieties of potato, sweetpotato, and ARTs are in need of protection, and what areas of the country they are most likely to be found.

Perhaps one of the most intriguing projects being supported by GIS is CIP’s Chirapaq Ñan – ‘Rainbow Route’ in Quechua – project which monitors and promotes the agrobiodiversity and conservation of the native potato by means of interconnecting microcenters of high diversity across several Latin America countries. GIS supports the project through establishing a baseline for the systematic monitoring of microcenters, which make up the core nucleus of the project. Juarez explains that, “This baseline serves as a photograph that helps CIP understand the actual state of conservation for the diversity of cultivated potatoes in the communities selected by Chirapaq Ñan.” The GIS will also help Chirapaq Ñan to study the total diversity (including characterization and genetic footprints) of all catalogued varieties, the relative abundance of varieties, and the total distribution of varieties with detailed mapping.

In order to provide the project with this type of information, Juarez says that he needed to train over 18 local farmers living in various communities in different regions of the country to help with GPS mapping. Juarez explains how the potato custodians and community leaders helped to select the most responsible farmers in each area before they were each given a GPS and detailed instructions on how to map various plots and describe, in detail, the different varieties and quantities of native potatoes being farmed throughout all community agricultural allotments.

Detailed satellite imagery was also purchased to help define the allotted areas of agricultural land used for potato cultivation. These images were then used to print out giant maps (some measuring 4 m) which were shown to local farmers and community leaders in order for them to help map out their potato crops. Juarez recalls that upon seeing a giant map of his territory, the leader of a community from Cerro de Pasco commented, “I feel like God.”

The methodology for the baseline study for Chirapaq Ñan will continue over the duration of the project, and will eventually branch out into other Latin American countries. With this baseline study, the project will be able to carry out a systematic monitoring of diversity for decades to come, and the collected results will not only help to conserve native potatoes and increase the livelihoods of local farmers, but will also be able to provide detailed information that can be used to support other projects across CIP.

The small but dedicated team of GIS professionals working at CIP help provide the structure and baseline support needed to give a great many of CIP’s projects momentum. “At the end of the day, it’s all about how to best implement CIP projects,” explains Juarez, “and geographic information systems help CIP conceptualize each project for greatest impact, before providing the necessary information needed to put the wheels of each project into motion.”

The recognition is growing steadily. RTBMaps - CIP’s joint work with other RTB participating centers Bioversity International, CIAT and IITA - was recently honored at the latest ESRI Conference with a Special Achievement in GIS Award.

IFAD President and Delegation Visit CIP

Aug 13 2013   |   By: admin   |   0   |  

August 2, 2013 – The President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Kanayo F. Nwanze, and IFAD Latin America and Caribbean Division Director, Josefina Stubbs visited CIP to participate in a strategic exchange. CIP Director General, Pamela Anderson and CIP leadership met with the IFAD delegation and later shared in a “Pachamanca”, an Andean thanksgiving meal that traditionally celebrates the potato harvest in the highlands of Peru.

IFAD, a specialized agency of the United Nations, is dedicated to eradicating rural poverty in developing countries. Working with poor rural people, governments, donors, non-governmental organizations and many other partners, IFAD focuses on country-specific solutions, which can involve increasing poor rural people's access to financial services, markets, technology, land and other natural resources.

Drawing Climate Change Lessons from Andean Farmers

Aug 02 2013   |   By: admin   |   0   |  

The Peruvian-Bolivian Altiplano is one of those regions in the world where generations of farmers have dealt with and successfully adapted to high climatic variability. Historically, through the sophisticated and rational use of local physical and biological resources, Altiplano farmers have always managed to ensure the safety of their food security, despite the odds against them.

In the face of a rather fragile agriculture, affected by climate variability, people of the Altiplano developed an approach similar to the strategy of modern investors in the stock market, who diversify their investment portfolios to deal with the risk and volatility of speculative finances. Thus, the Andean families learned to invest natural, social and financial capital in a diversified portfolio of options to deal with uncertainties and climate risks.

A clear example of this strategy is shown by the way in which potatoes are still grown by traditional farmers. Potato is the staple crop of the farming household and the basis of food security for the local economy. The strategy for coping with climate variability involves the simultaneous planting of many varieties (variety mixtures) in the same cropping field during a growing season. These mixtures may total more than 40 to 50 different varieties and landraces and the composition of the mixture may vary in subsequent years, based on the yields obtained under the experienced weather conditions and the expected returns based on the forecasted weather for the following planting season.

The rationality behind the use of varietal mixtures, which is somewhat contrary to the common logic of using a single adapted and high performance variety, has been explained by the CIP scientists working with CCAFS - the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security - using potato growth simulation models. This analysis shows that early varieties with early tuber formation and fast tuber filling rates can produce a harvest when early frosts are intense, severely affecting the later varieties. These are able to produce higher yields, especially since they are more tolerant to late blight and intense frosts and droughts.

Additionally, mixtures also include some potato varieties tolerant to pests and diseases, of which the incidence and severity are also determined by meteorological conditions. Moreover, mixtures are also diverse in terms of cooking quality and end-use of the tubers. The net result of the use of potato mixtures is then a reduction of vulnerability and food insecurity in a society that has practiced subsistence agriculture in an environment of high climatic variability.

Women play key role in the Altiplano in the conservation of potato genetic resources

image_blogimageWomen in the Altiplano have played and still play a key role in the development and maintenance of this adaptive production strategy. They are actively involved in observing the performance of the different varieties in response to factors causing abiotic and biotic stresses and in the selection of the better-adapted varieties and landraces. Women also exchange knowledge, experiences and genetic material in the traditional fairs, enhancing and preserving traditional knowledge.

Traditional societies such as that found in the Altiplano are rapidly integrating their agricultural practices to the modern input and output markets. However, the principles in which they had based their survival in the face of climate variability for thousands of years are still valid. For this reason, the experience in the Altiplano makes us realize the need to study systematically and in an unbiased manner the rationality of ancient practices and their applicability to the new situations created by climate change and the increased climate variability around the globe. Understanding this knowledge and the principles involved would help develop and strengthen new strategies to face climate change in different parts of the world. One lesson learned from these societies is the importance of biodiversity conservation.

Blog produced by CIP’s Production System and Environment Sub-Program

New Publication Explores the Opportunities & Challenges of Potato Production in Ethiopia

Jul 30 2013   |   By: admin   |   0   |  

A 2012 Ethiopian workshop on potato seed production provided CIP with a great opportunity to be involved in the development of a unique publication exploring trends in potato production.

As the world’s top non-grain food commodity, potato has an important role to play as a popular source of affordable food for the world’s growing urban populations. In Sub-Saharan Africa – and Ethiopia in particular – the potential of the potato crop is being researched by stakeholders keen to explore new opportunities for development.

With global production over the past two decades expanding rapidly, potato is increasingly a highly dependable food security crop. Potato also generates more employment in the farm economy than other crops, and serves as a source of cash income for low-income farm households.

However, despite these trends potato has long been regarded as a lowly subsistence crop and is still an underexploited food crop. Potato has huge potential to improve food security, income and human nutrition and it is in Ethiopia where the potential of this crop is increasingly being realized and explored by farmers, private investors, and policy makers. While, national average yields are still far below attainable yields, ample opportunities exist to unleash this crop’s potential for increased food security and income generation.

00-Group-Picture-Workshop-participantsIt was in this context, that the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), Amhara Agricultural Research Institute (ARARI), and the International Potato Center (CIP) held a National Workshop on Seed Potato Production and Dissemination in 2012 that provided a valuable platform to discuss future potato research and development priorities.

This new publication - Seed potatoes in Ethiopia: Experiences, Challenges and Opportunities - documents the papers presented during the workshop. Farmer access to quality seed still constitutes the main bottleneck to increased productivity in East Africa, the key focus is seed potato value chain.

The book is the first of its kind to collect and analyse potato seed research experiences and provides a comprehensive overview of the current state of seed potato production in Ethiopia.

The book can be viewed and downloaded online at the Sweetpotato Knowledge Portal:

Scaling Up Orange-fleshed Sweetpotato in Africa and Asia

Jul 26 2013   |   By: admin   |   0   |  

Over the past 15 years, the International Potato Center (CIP) has helped build robust evidence to demonstrate that pro-vitamin A rich, Orange-fleshed Sweetpotato (OFSP) can combat vitamin A deficiency in children. CIP and its partners have shown that this new food is acceptable in traditional diets and that only one-half cup of OFSP provides the vitamin-A requirement for a single child. Since 2009, CIP and its partners have delivered OFSP to nearly 260,000 households in Mozambique, Ethiopia, Malawi, Uganda, Angola, Kenya, and Rwanda. However, this is only the beginning and CIP is currently scaling up its research efforts and development impacts in Africa and Asia in an effort to reach 15 million households with orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP) by 2020. The CGIAR’s announcement to spend at least $400 million on nutrition-sensitive agricultural research over the next three years, as well as £42 million in new funding from the UK to support biofortification efforts, with £12 million earmarked for CIP, underscores the importance of CIP’s role in delivering OFSP to millions of impoverished peoples around the world. This new support from the UK will enable CIP to reach 1.2 million women and young children in Rwanda, Kenya, Malawi, and Mozambique, by collaborating closely with the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) efforts in those countries. In addition, the Government of Nigeria has made a commitment to partner with CIP and reach 102,000 households by 2017. In India, the state government of Odishia has made a major commitment to deliver OFSP to 250,000 households and USAID support will help bring OFSP to 100,000, mainly female headed households in Bangladesh. The announcement of the UK funding to support this CIP effort was made by UK International Development Secretary Justine Greening at the Nutrition for Growth event organized by the UK Government in advance of the G8 Summit. In remarks made to the Nutrition for Growth participants, CIP Director General Pamela K. Anderson stated that, “working with businesses to drive consumption of orange-fleshed sweetpotato products is critical.” Anderson accentuated the importance of working with local businesses by drawing upon the example of CIP’s role with Rwanda’s largest commercial bakery, SINA Enterprises. With the help of CIP, SINA Enterprises has incorporated orange-fleshed sweetpotato into a range of commercial food products – stimulating demand and reducing dependence on imported wheat and flour. At the event, CIP endorsed the Global Nutrition for Growth Compact along with a total of 94 stakeholders, including 26 governments and 27 business and science organizations. The event brought together heads of state, ministers, business leaders and representatives from donor, civil society, and UN agencies in order to push nutrition to the top of the international political agenda. It sought ambitious policy and financial commitments from participants to eradicate poverty, help countries to develop and prosper, and give every human being the opportunity to lead a healthy and productive life by ensuring the right to a safe, nutritious, and sufficient food supply.