The International Potato Center’s (CIP) strategy and corporate plan for the period 2014-2023 aims to strengthen its response to the major challenges facing the world by enhancing the impact of its research for development. The plan builds on an institutional change process that was initiated by CIP’s board of trustees in late 2012. It, in turn builds on a major change process within the CGIAR—the umbrella body for 15 international research centers—initiated in 2008. At the heart of the new CGIAR is a Strategy and Results Framework with aspirational targets that feed into the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Driven by impact
The key driver behind revising CIP’s strategic focus was the need to ensure that our research for development achieves the desired impacts. It was not enough to undertake research for development, however excellent, develop solutions, however promising, and simply assume they would be implemented. CIP and other international agricultural research centers needed to ensure that the promising solutions they developed were adopted at scale and had a significant impact. This did not mean that CIP and the other centers would do everything. It meant that they would identify viable adoption pathways and systematically engage with the partners needed to implement them. Those collaborations had to go beyond CIP’s largely sciencebased partnerships to include much more prominent roles for development partners and the private sector.
Above all, CIP must show that, together with its partners, it is enhancing food and nutrition security, generating inclusive growth and helping climate change adaption, all at scale with the benefits reaching vulnerable and marginalized groups. And all this must be done with a greatly increased sense of urgency as the global population approaches 9 billion and climate change intensifies many of the challenges facing the planet.
The first five years: a review
The first five years of the 2014-2023 strategic plan began to articulate how CIP would respond to this changing environment. The plan addressed the central question: how do we enhance our impact? It recognized the need to balance three different types of activities: delivery of relatively quick wins based on scaling proven technologies; discovery-phase research that was riskier but could produce game-changing solutions in the longer term (10 years plus); and managing the CIP genebank to enable the utilization of global potato and sweetpotato collections. At its core were six strategic objectives: three focused on scaling up proven technologies; two on more upstream research; and one focused on the genebank.
The new approach has already delivered some encouraging results. For example, during this period, CIP and partners helped improve the diets—and in many cases the incomes—of more than five million households in Africa and Asia by scaling up adoption of nutritious and resilient orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP) varieties. The revised plan aims to build on this and other successes.
The revised strategy and corporate plan 2014–23
The revised plan is not completely new. Rather it includes a small number of carefully considered changes. These include the:
- Revision of the mission and vision to better reflect the CIP’s priorities in a changing environment.
- Addition of three new core institutional goals—to strengthen alignment with the SDGs.
- Reduction in the number of strategic objectives from six to four—with the intention of increasing the productivity and effectiveness of CIP’s work.
- Identification of specific research products within these objectives—to facilitate targeted investment in research-for-development products to achieve specified outcomes.
- Addition of regional visions—to tailor CIP’s work to the specific opportunities and challenges in Asia, Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean.
Three new core institutional goals
To strengthen alignment with the SDGs, CIP has defined three new core institutional goals. These goals have been directly shaped by some of the megatrends and challenges facing the world today: undernutrition (SDG 2 and 3), underemployment of women and young people (SDG 1, 5 and 8), climate change (SDG 13), and the need for sustainable intensification of agri-food systems and conservation of agrobiodiversity (SDG 15).
Goal 1: Improved food and nutritional security through the introduction of healthier diets to vulnerable populations (women, and young and displaced people)
With more than 800 million people, particularly women and children under 5 years of age, suffering from hidden hunger—insufficient consumption of essential micronutrients—the challenge to feed and nourish the world is daunting. However, the potential of potato and sweetpotato to effectively and efficiently address food and nutrition security challenges in agri-food systems is extremely promising. Raising potato and sweetpotato yields and access to crop diversity, including biofortified varieties, coupled with reductions in post-harvest losses in developing countries can increase the supply of nutrientrich foods for farming family consumption and markets, particularly during the ‘hunger periods’ when other foods are scarce.
Goal 2: Increased livelihood and employment opportunities and wide-scale development of inclusive value chains in rural and urban areas
The creation of better livelihood opportunities could transform the lives of the 800 million people living on less than USD 1.90 a day. Since potato and sweetpotato value chains are still in their infancy in most developing countries, there is huge potential for the promotion of marketing, processing, and consumption of these crops. Emerging market opportunities for potato and sweetpotato planting material, fresh roots, and processed products will generate employment along value chains, particularly for women and young people, and help reduce inequality.
Goal 3: Sustainable intensification and diversification of agri-food systems through climate-resilient and biodiverse agriculture
Extreme weather shocks, rising temperatures, more frequent droughts and increasing soil salinity are undermining livelihoods throughout the planet. National climate-change mitigation and adaptation strategies require both support and innovative alternatives. Potato and sweetpotato have shorter production cycles (3–4 months from planting to harvesting) and are more water efficient per unit of food than most staple crops. This makes them suitable for rotation with grain crops, which improves land-use efficiency and offers viable alternatives for agricultural intensification and diversification. For instance, potato and sweetpotato can be cultivated in rotation with rice or wheat in Asia. Both crops’ biodiversity holds opportunities for sustainably intensifying food production in mountain and lowland agroecosystems around the world.
Fewer, better targeted and more measurable strategic objectives
To achieve these goals, CIP will focus on just four strategic objectives. Though based on the six objectives of the original 2014–23 plan, these are better articulated and, in most cases, have clearer targets to track progress more easily, thereby enhancing accountability.
Objective 1: Improve health-related outcomes from and profitability of agri-food systems with sweetpotato
Between 2019 and 2023, CIP aims to reach a further 10 million resource‐poor households in Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean with sweetpotato, enabling them to improve their dietary quality and raise their crop incomes by 15%. This will be achieved through increased production and consumption of vitamin A-rich OFSP varieties, diversified use of sweetpotato, and scaling of gender‐equitable value chains. Over the next five years, CIP also expects to make new biofortified sweetpotato varieties—including some with high iron content— available for proof-of-concept research and subsequent scaling out. These will be promoted using an approach similar to the one successfully employed for OFSP.
Objective 2: Intensify, diversify, and strengthen the resilience of agri-food systems with potato
CIP will enhance the sustainability, diversification, and resilience of agri-food systems by increasing potato productivity by 30%, enhancing food and nutrition security, and creating additional livelihood opportunities (20% increased income from potato-related activities) through improved and more gender-inclusive value chains in the current and potential potato-producing regions of developing countries. This work will improve the livelihoods of five million households, particularly smallholder farmers cultivating potato in subtropical and tropical highland, mid-latitude, lowland, and temperate agroecosystems.
Objective 3: Harness advances in genomics, new breeding, and big-data to accelerate the inclusionof more resilient traits into potato and sweetpotato varieties
CIP will harness advances in genomics, genetics, biosciences, gene technologies, and big-data to accelerate the inclusion of more resilient traits into potato and sweetpotato varieties. Specific targets include developing nutritious, end-user-preferred, varieties with traits which include early maturation, tolerance to heat, drought and salinity, and resistance to emerging pests and diseases— all of which may increase due to climate change. CIP will also strengthen its capacity and that of national research partners in using big-data decision-support tools to target and accelerate the development and release of new varieties by predicting the adaptability and adoptability of new genetic materials to agroecosystems and market trend.
Objective 4: Optimize the conservation and use of biodiversity for future generations
CIP will enhance the conservation and optimize the utilization of potato and sweetpotato biodiversity for the future. The CIP genebank will serve as a model of innovative, research-driven development and delivery of potato and sweetpotato genetic diversity, and associated tools for global researchers. The use of the genebank collection and associated information to secure food supply and availability will be intensified through discovery research designed to more purposely align the conservation and use of biodiversity with plant breeding endeavors, in turn contributing to the realization of other CIP objectives.
CIP will develop and deliver research-for-development (R4D) products to achieve the specific objectives described above. For this to happen, CIP will organize its work within three global programs: Sweetpotato Agri-Food Systems, Potato Agri-Food Systems, and Biodiversity for the Future. The work will be implemented in accordance with CIP regional strategies and the active involvement of disciplinary scientific teams.
Details on the research-for-development products for each program can be found on https://cipotato.org/program.