FoodSTART: Starting a new partnership model for food security in the Asia Pacific

Of the world’s 870 million undernourished people, nearly 65% (some 563 million) live in Asia-Pacific. To address this challenge, the International Potato Center (CIP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) established the Food Security Through Asian Roots and Tubers (FoodSTART) project, which is working towards the enhanced contribution of root and tuber crops (RTCs) to food security, nutrition and income in the region.

Under CIP leadership and with financing from IFAD, the 4-year research and development project supports RTCs production, consumption and use through: 1) evidence-gathering and targeting, 2) needs and opportunities assessment on RTCs-for-food security, and 3) R&D actions via introduction of RTC innovations, capacity building and policy influence. Target RTCs include sweetpotato, potato and cassava as well as diverse aroids and yams of local importance.

Focus countries of the regional project are China, Philippines, India, Indonesia and Bangladesh. FoodSTART seeks to achieve impact-at-scale through its partnership with nine IFAD investment projects in 5 countries, which represent over $600 million of development financing. Its key implementing partners include national/local research institutes, NGOs, universities and private commercial organizations. The lead in-country organizations range from national research institutes such as rootcrop centers in India and the Philippines and provincial agricultural academies in China, to the non-governmental organization BRAC in Bangladesh and the State University of Papua in Indonesia.

Setting R&D directions through innovative partnerships

At the second Annual Project Review and Planning Meeting, held from 28-30 August 2013 in Odisha, India, Mr. Sana Jatta, IFAD’s Task Manager for FoodSTART and Country Programme Manager for China, underscored how FoodSTART is emerging as IFAD’s flagship project for demonstrating effective partnership between research-grant and large-scale development investment projects.

Since 2011 FoodSTART has achieved: 1) subnational RTCs-for-food security mapping and targeting, 2) assessment and thematic studies to capture and systematize knowledge on food availability, access, utilization and vulnerability, and 3) collaborative actions with investment projects to integrate RTCs in development plans and priorities in-country. A key implementing strategy has been to strategically align FoodSTART with the agri-food security frameworks of national governments and IFAD Asia-Pacific, according to Dr. Dindo Campilan, project leader and CIP senior food security and livelihood specialist for Asia.

FoodSTART partners visit the Central Tuber Crops Research Institute (CTCRI), host of the annual meeting in Odisha

Featured at the annual meeting was the Philippine tripartite partnership by FoodSTART, IFAD Country Office and the Second Cordillera Highland Agricultural Resource Management Project (CHARMP2). A $65-million IFAD investment project targeting over 13000 households and 600 rural enterprises, CHARMP2 has chosen RTCs as primary priority commodity in supporting livelihoods and food security of indigenous peoples in the northern Philippine highlands. FoodSTART-CHARMP2 collaboration covers: value chain and food security assessments, region-wide enterprise development planning, and farmer business school piloting and upscaling. Over the past two years, the partnership mode has evolved from complementary (exchanging knowledge products) to co-financing (joint implementation and funding) and most recently to service provision (upscaling innovations through commissioned activities financed by CHARMP2). FoodSTART’s significant contribution to achievement of CHARMP2’s target outputs and outcomes was officially recognized by IFAD’s 2013 annual review mission for the investment project.

A similar partnership with other IFAD investment projects is emerging in other sites/countries, such as: 1) food security assessment studies through mobilizing staff and partners of investment project in India, 2) workshop on GIS mapping hosted and co-financed by investment project in China, 3) training on value chain facilitation locally organized by investment project in Indonesia, and 4) writeshop series for a compendium of outcome stories on rural entrepreneurship published by investment project in the Philippines.

Producing knowledge products contributing to CIP research agenda

In 2013, CIP is developing its new research strategic plan based on a food security framework. In the Asia-Pacific, FoodSTART research outputs are helping CIP in sub-national targeting, identifying food security needs and opportunities, and in setting research priorities. Field survey results validated the diverse roles of sweetpotato in local food and livelihood systems across the region. Food intake assessments identified RTCs’ contribution to household diet and nutrition. Value chain analyses identified opportunities in RTCs value addition for processed food, animal feed and novel health products.

FoodSTART likewise offers field tested conceptual and methodological tools to guide CIP’s operationalization of its new research strategy. These include assessment frameworks and methods in RTCs-for-food security, as well as methodological guidelines for thematic studies on value chain, genetic diversity and nutrition, and consumption and product quality.

Initial FoodSTART outputs have been repackaged into a series of 26 FoodSTART Briefs on concepts and methods, research highlights, and R&D actions. At the Odisha meeting, additional knowledge products have been identified based on user demand from CIP, IFAD and FoodSTART partners.

Utilizing research results for a more food-secure future

Food security is a complex issue that calls for integrated solutions and concerted actions by various sectors and stakeholders. FoodSTART aims to contribute through R&D actions for policy influence, investment planning, capacity strengthening and innovations promotion.

In the project countries, FoodSTART has found that newer government policies provide a more enabling environment to enhance RTC’s role in food security especially for the poor. National governments now officially recognize the multi-dimensional nature of food security beyond simply food availability, as well as RTC’s potential contribution in diversifying and enhancing diets of food insecure populations.

Natl Food Security Plan Relevance to RTCs
Bangladesh Natl Food Policy (NFP) Plan of Action 2008-15 Potato as key food crop identified for research, devt and policy investment
China Long-term Planning Overview for Natl Food Security 2008-20 Increased potato production among the long-term targets for food security
India National Food Security Bill Need for crop diversification beyond cereals, target crops include RTCs and pulses
Indonesia Ministry of Agriculture Medium-Term Devt Plan 2010-14 – Food Security Component Identifies sweetpotato and other RTCs as priority crops for contributing to food availability and diversification
Philippines Natl Food Staples Self Sufficiency Roadmap Natl govt declares 5 official food staples: sweetpotato, cassava and plantain along with  rice and corn

To help implement these national policies on the ground, FoodSTART and IFAD are guiding in-country investment projects to integrate a food security perspective in investment targeting and planning. In the Philippines, FoodSTART has provided technical backstopping in the formulation and design of two investment projects to achieve outcomes that harmonize pro-poor value chains with resilient food and livelihood systems, i.e. inclusion of RTCs and other secondary crops.

Across countries, FoodSTART and investment projects are organizing stakeholder workshops to share results of assessment and thematic studies, and to jointly develop action plans that integrate RTCs in the food security initiatives at national and local levels. During the Odisha meeting, representatives of investment projects in India and the Philippines committed to co-implement and co-finance a set of immediate field-level actions, while IFAD-China is setting up a national-level planning meeting in late 2013 with investment projects in various provinces. It was likewise agreed that FoodSTART trainings for IFAD partners, already undertaken in Indonesia and the Philippines, will be out-scaled to other sites and countries.

Representatives of IFAD country offices and external review mission, who took part in the annual meeting, strongly recommended for other focus sites to follow the Philippine partnership model, specifically the assessment-to-action strategies such as: 1) using assessment results to identify strategic R&D interventions, e.g. formulating investment plans for the RTCs sector; and 2) mobilizing science-based tools to exploit RTCs’ functional traits with value-adding potentials, e.g. laboratory analyses to identify nutritional values of local cultivars.

Participants in FoodSTART’s second Annual Meeting, August 2013


By Angelica Barlis, FoodSTART Communication Specialist, and CPAD.

food security