Developing and sharing innovations: from the lab to field to scale

Farmer Stella Mukiri in her potato field

Potato and sweetpotato are the third and seventh most important food crops globally. Yet most farmers in developing countries produce a fraction of what they could per hectare under optimal conditions, in large part because they plant seed infected with yield-reducing pests and diseases. To remedy this, the International Potato Center (CIP) develops resilient, high yielding varieties and promotes innovations to expand production of quality planting material.

In Kenya, where more than 800,000 farmers grow potato and 3.8 million people along the value chain benefit from the crop, average yields of just 6-10 tons per hectare are holding farmers back. CIP has spent years promoting technologies to expand production of and farmer access to quality potato seed, and in 2021, enough certified seed potatoes were produced to meet 27% to 36% of farmers’ needs. Use of certified seed has enabled tens of thousands of farmers like Stella Mukiri, of Meru County, to double their production.

“My income from potatoes has allowed me to pay my child’s school fees, build a shed for my cows, and tile the floor of my home,” says Mukiri.

In Bangladesh, where the effects of climate change have reduce crop yields, and malnutrition persists in many areas, CIP and partners developed climate-smart, nutritious potato and sweetpotato varieties to diversify the country’s rice-based food system. Almost 50,000 land-poor households began growing the new sweetpotato varieties between 2019 and 2021, producing food for more than 200,000 family members and an estimated 400,000 consumers, with sales valued at more than USD 3 million. To disseminate the new varieties, groups of women were trained in growing vines for use as planting material and sold more 29 million vine cuttings. At the same time, 93 women were trained nutrition scholars, who helped approximately 12,000 women plant pro-vitamin-A sweetpotato and other nutritious crops in home gardens, diversifying their families’ diets and incomes.

Nutrition trainer Shoma Khatun

One of them, 24-year-old Shoma Khatun, earned enough from the sale of vegetables to purchase hens, so her family now also eats and sells eggs. “I didn’t understand the importance of nutritious vegetables like orange-fleshed sweetpotato until I became a nutrition scholar, but now I grow them in my garden and help other women do the same,” Khatun says.

These are just two of the examples of how CIP harnesses the power of science to improve lives and livelihoods mentioned in CIP’s Annual Report 2021:  from the lab to the field to scale. The report features novel technologies, contributions to scientific knowledge, outcomes of years of work in the field, and examples of the partnerships and innovations that CIP brings to CGIAR. It provides snapshots of our work toward the Sustainable Development Goals and foods systems transformation for a more productive, gender-equitable, sustainable future.

Read the report here