CGIAR Research and Innovation on Root and Tuber Crops: Key in Africa’s Solutions to Agrifood Systems Transformation

Joyce Maru (CIP) moderates Arbre à Palabres session held on September 7 during AGRF 2023 Summit held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania {PHOTO: S. Edson/CIP}.

Africa’s agrifood systems are at a crossroads, facing unprecedented challenges and opportunities as climate shocks and stresses increasingly threaten the continent’s food security, agricultural productivity, and marginalized livelihoods. The International Potato Center (CIP) Root and Tuber Crops research and innovation contribution to the recovery and rebuilding of Africa’s food systems was in the spotlight last week at the Africa Food Systems Forum (AGRF) held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania from September 4th to September 8th, 2023.

CIP participation in AGRF 2023 Summit  Arbre à Palabres, first of its kind session, provided an interactive platform to reflect on the pivotal role of root and tuber crops in Africa’s food security. The session also covered the contribution of CGIAR’s research towards building resilience to crisis and shocks through adoption of innovative, climate-smart root and tuber crops technologies. Participants experienced face to face interaction with industry experts including Joyce Maru, Director (a.i) Global Sweetpotato Agrifood Systems Program (CIP), Hannele Lindqvist-Kreuze, Head of Genetics, Genomics, and Crop Improvement (CIP), Mandla Nkomo, Chief Growth Officer for the CGIAR Excellence in Agronomy (EiA 2030) Initiative (IITA), and Kwame Ogero, Associate Scientist, Crop and Systems Sciences Division (CIP).

The impacts of climate change, including erratic rainfall, prolonged droughts, extreme weather events, and the spread of pests and diseases, reshape how Africa produces, processes, and distributes its food. Root and tuber crops are emerging as crucial players in Africa’s journey toward food system transformation.

The theme of AGRF was “Recover, Regenerate, Act: Africa’s Solutions to Food Systems Transformation,” a platform for stakeholders to discuss strategies to revitalize Africa’s food systems, focusing on youth and women. CIP sought to frame its role in the AGRF 2023, around root and tuber crops, evidence-based policies, resilience to climate change, food and nutrition security, and gender equity, which are critical to improving Africa’s food systems.

CIP boost Local Procurement: A Catalyst for Resilient Value Chains

During a panel discussion titled Local procurement to catalyze food systems transformation led by Joyce Maru showcased CIP collaborative efforts with governments, NGOs, and private sector entities to promote local procurement policies and practices.

“To tap into the opportunities in local procurement such as by World Food Programme school feeding programs, CIP is helping farmers to increase productivity, addressing post-harvest losses of perishable crops such as vegetables and root and tuber crops,” said Maru.

CIP has a history of involvement with the AGRF Summit, showcasing CIP’s innovative approaches, technologies, and research findings related to potato and sweet potato innovation, forge partnerships and collaborations with other stakeholders, including governments, NGOs, and the private sector. CIP has also been involved in high-level discussions and knowledge sharing with stakeholders and end users. By focusing on nutritious, climate-resilient crops and building strong partnerships with stakeholders, CIP helps create more resilient, sustainable, and equitable food systems. The impact of CIP’s local procurement efforts and Root and tuber innovations extends beyond the plate, benefiting smallholder farmers, communities, and the broader environment.

Arbre à Palabres Session discuss pivotal contribution of CGIAR research and innovation on Root and Tuber Crops

A key moment at AGRF was CIP’s participation in Arbre à Palabres Session, an interactive platform to reflect on the pivotal role RTC plays in Africa’s food security and shared evidence on the contribution of CGIAR’s research on Root & Tuber crops (RTC) to the recovery and rebuilding of Africa’s food systems. Participants directly engaged with industry experts Joyce Maru, CIP director (a.i) global sweetpotato agrifood systems program International Potato Center (CIP), Hannele Lindqvist-Kreuze, CIP head of genetics, genomics, and crop improvement Mandla Nkomo, IITA chief growth officer for the CGIAR Excellence in Agronomy (EiA 2030) Initiative, and Kwame Ogero, CIP regional research associate.

Nkomo’s presentation confirmed excellence in agronomy contributed by CGIAR root and tuber crops research. He said, “by deploying human-centred design techniques, our researchers are building much clearer profiles of farmer typologies and the service bundles these farmers need, including planting material, fertilizers, disease management and climate information services.”

The high-level engagement sparked social media engagement and innovative thinking, identified challenges and opportunities, and generated actionable insights that can contribute to the advancement of African agriculture. The discussions prioritized opportunities and untapped potential of Root and Tuber Crops in humanitarian and fragile contexts, fostering a vibrant and inclusive atmosphere, knowledge sharing and networking among stakeholders from diverse backgrounds.

Hannele Lindqvist-Kreuze discussed the urgent need for increased investment in climate-smart technologies, seed systems, post-harvest tech, and regulations with a key focus on root and tuber technologies.

“Root and tuber crops are vital in the humid tropics of Africa, and their consumption is set to rise with population growth. Under climate change, these crops offer flexibility and resilience, thriving even in marginal lands,” said Lindqvist-Kreuze.

The panel and audience explored questions on the role of evidence-based policies and scaling approaches for RTC through investments and strategic partnerships to effectively address complex challenges of food and nutrition security, sustainability, and inclusive development. With evidence-based policies, strategic partnerships, and increased investments, RTCs are poised to play an even more significant role in building resilient and sustainable food systems across Africa. This session illuminated a path forward, where RTCs are at the forefront of a resilient and nourished Africa.

Follow the conversations online across CIP social media platforms.