Statement by the Director General
CIP’s 45th anniversary, celebrated in 2016, marked a milestone in our existence in what was a history making year. Together with our partners around the world, we had the opportunity to reflect on CIP’s past achievements in food security and nutrition, and project a vision for the coming decades. Clearly, we have laid a firm foundation of upstream and downstream research and have made significant achievements at every step along the value chain. CIP’s founding Director General, Richard Sawyer, and his colleagues would be pleased with the role CIP plays in agricultural research for development 45 years after its founding.
Agriculture’s role in nutrition came to the fore in 2016 through the World Food Prize and the Al-Sumait Prize for African Development for Health and Food Security. The World Food Prize recognized the role of three CIP researchers, Dr. Jan Low, Dr. Maria Andrade and Dr. Robert Mwanga, and HarvestPlus’ Dr. Howarth Bouis for their work on biofortified crops, including sweetpotato, to reduce hidden hunger and specifically vitamin A deficiency (VAD), one of the most pernicious forms of undernourishment in the developing world. The CIP team proved that Sub-Saharan Africa communities would accept biofortified orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP) into their diets, that VAD could be prevented by eating it, and that countries would adopt it. The Al-Sumait Prize for African Development for Health and Food Security was awarded to the CIP Resilient Nutritious OFSP Team for its work linking agriculture and nutrition to introduce vitamin A biofortified OFSP into the diets of mothers and children in Africa. These two awards are positive recognition that crops farmers already grow, when improved, can have a real impact on the health and welfare of the communities where they live. They are proof that when we breed crops for micronutrient traits, resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses, and market preference we can make a difference in the lives of women, children and men who otherwise will face hardships due to hidden hunger and poverty.
This is certainly the case for OFSP, where 10 million people across 14 countries have benefitted from the vitamin A richness of this crop. CIP, along with our partners and with the support from our donors, has led the development of the most compelling evidence for going to scale with OFSP as a model for biofortified crops. We have built robust evidence to demonstrate that just 125 g/day of OFSP meets the daily vitamin A needs of a young child. We now have conclusive evidence that there is less childhood blindness because of this work and there is a growing body of work that indicates that stunting may be reduced as well. From the outset, we learned that nutrition education was critical to ensure that OFSP was incorporated into the diets of pregnant and lactating mothers and young children. Today OFSP is now firmly on the table in 14 Sub-Saharan African countries.
OFSP is not alone in this regard. It has certainly led the way but there are other crops. In the CIP pipeline, biofortified potatoes rich in iron, zinc or both will soon be a reality and will lead the charge in fighting anemia and wasting in places like Peru, the home of the potato, which paradoxically is also the country with the highest rate of anemia in South America.
In celebration of our 45 years I think it is appropriate to acknowledge the legacy of the famous Peruvian potato scientist Carlos Ochoa that lives on through the CIP Biodiversity Center, also known as our genebank, where we hold the largest collection of potato and sweetpotato germplasm in the world. It is at the core of CIP’s research, continuing to grow and remaining on the cutting edge of agricultural conservation and preservation. This work is even more important today as the reality of climate change threatens these vital food security crops. It is not just a collection of germplasm, but a resource held in trust to be used by researchers around the world to improve resiliency to climate change, nutrition and productivity.
CIP has achieved much over the past 45 years. We have been a key player in research for development of potato and sweetpotato. Although the foundation of our work has been focused on breeding locally adapted and consumer preferred varieties that are tolerant to biotic and abiotic stresses, we work with our partners across the entire value chain — developing the best varieties, supporting the establishment of quality seed systems, ensuring that famers have access to clean planting material, and working with and linking to private sector entrepreneurs to process their products after harvest. We focus on gender inclusion, and the empowerment of women throughout the process of value chain development and capacity strengthening is at the core of all that we do.
In many parts of the world 2016 was recognized as one of the hottest years on record and severe weather events like El Niño and weather shocks, like the drought in Ethiopia and Hurricane Matthew in Haiti and the Caribbean, have underscored the necessity to prepare for a climate changing world. This annual report speaks to CIP’s efforts to improve nutrition in that climate changing world.
CIP has always been proud to be the lead center for the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB); this year is notable in that this program has been approved as one of the 11 CGIAR Research Programs that are starting to work in 2017. This represents a strong endorsement of RTB’s success and sets it up well for Phase II as a refocused Agri-Food System CRP with a broader vision. CIP congratulates RTB and all the participating centers for this success.
I am proud of CIP’s work and the contributions that we, along with many partners, make toward ending poverty, eliminating hunger, ensuring gender equity, combating climate change, and improving our environment. It is through our partners and funders that we can have an impact and for this I am thankful.
Barbara H. Wells