Accelerating Africa’s economic growth through root and tuber crops

Farmers rejoice over better access to healthy seed potato in Kenya. Photo: FIPs-Africa

The 13th International Symposium for the International Society for Tropical Root Crops- Africa Branch (ISTRC-AB) has kicked off in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. The four day meeting (5-8 March) brings together over 300 delegates from government agriculture ministries in Africa, development partners, international and national agriculture research organisations, academia, private sector as well as farmers with an interest in root and tuber crops in Africa. Participants will present and discuss latest research, innovations, technologies and trends on root crops in line with the theme “Expanding Collaboration, Catalyzing Innovation of Root Crops for Accelerating Africa’s Economic Growth”.

“We hope we will get practical hands-on solutions, that can help address farmers’ constraints in production of root crops, with the modest investment dedicated to research and development of these crops” said Tanzania’s Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries (MALF) in a speech read by his Director Dr. Hussein Mansoor. He encouraged researchers to work together with the farmers, policy makers and all stakeholders, for co-ownership of research findings to increase chances of technology adoption for the intended improved productivity and utilization of root crops.  He further called for applause of the 2016 World Food Prize (WFP) laureates from the International Potato Center (CIP)—Drs Maria Andrade, Robert Mwanga and Jan Low, all attending ISTRC-AB—for their great achievement in contributing to reduced hidden hunger among women and children of Africa, through the orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP).

Dr. Jan Low delivers key note address the 13th ISTRC-AB symposium in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Photo: V. Atakos (CIP)

Earlier, Dr. Low delivered a key note address, at ISTRC-AB, highlighting significant gains made in sweetpotato work in the region.  “Our breeding work in Africa has grown from only two countries in 2005 to 12 in 2009. A further three are engaged in varietal selection,” said Low.

She highlighted investments by national governments as important in supporting roll out of nutritious root crops such as (OFSP). “ Policy  support is critical in helping change perception of sweetpotato as a crop for the poor,” said Dr. Low.

The meeting revolves around five sub themes:

  • Managing priority genetic resources, cropping systems and pests and diseases
  • Commercial seed system, agronomy and weed management
  • Post harvest technologies, nutrition, value chains and market opportunities
  • Enhancing innovative impact through partnerships
  • Mobilizing investors for sustainable root and tuber crop research and development.

CIP researchers will be presenting papers and posters on potato and sweetpotato research in the region. A number of research publications are also available to all participants  at the CIP and Sweetpotato for Profit and Health Initiative booths at the exhibition section.

The Guest of Honor, Dr. Hussein Mansoor tours the CIP booth. Photo: C. Bukania (CIP)

ISTRC-AB conference has been organised by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) working closely with a number of partners including CIP, CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas, the Natural Resources Institute among others.  ISTRC-AB was established in 1978 and is headquartered in IITA.

Root, tubers