The International Potato Center (CIP) responds to twenty-first century agricultural development challenges by organizing its work into three programs: Biodiversity for the future, and potato and sweetpotato agri-food systems.

Recent program achievements

Strategic Program objective

Early-maturing, market-preferred, and biofortified
potatoes and high-quality seed potato will improve
productivity and farm incomes of more than
7 million households in Africa, Asia
and Latin America by 2023.

An increasingly challenging environment

Developing country small-scale farmers face many challenges as they struggle to produce enough nutritious food for their families and also a surplus to sell. Growing populations and urbanization are shrinking landholdings, so farmers need to produce more food from less land. In many developing countries, millions of farmers depend on a small number of crops to get by. Monocropping, poor agronomic practices, frequent droughts, flooding and salinity—increasingly linked to climate change—have degraded soil quality. Dependence on internationally traded grains leaves poor populations, particularly in Asia, at increased risk of malnutrition due to price spikes.

Breeding better potatoes

Recognizing the urgent need for more nutritious, more resilient food crops, CIP breeders are harnessing the latest scientific knowledge and tools to develop better varieties: early-maturing, stress-tolerant, disease-resistant potato varieties with characteristics desired by consumers and processors. Early maturing potatoes allow the crop to be grown during fallow periods of cereal-based systems. This relieves pressure on scarce land and water resources, helps to increase economic and nutritional value, and eases the strain of food price inflation. Stress-tolerant and disease-resistant potato varieties enable farmers to cope with problems that are expected to grow worse under climate change. They also reduce the need to use agrochemicals which saves money and reduces environmental impacts. CIP has also made significant advances in developing biofortified potatoes. These combine elevated levels of iron and zinc with resilience traits to contribute to global efforts to end malnutrition.

Better seed systems

To help increase crop yield and dissemination of improved varieties, CIP facilitates the improvement and expansion of potato seed systems. Most farmers in developing countries plant seed potatoes saved from their own harvests or purchased in informal markets. This aids the spread and accumulation of pathogens in plants and soil, which significantly reduce yields. CIP scientists have developed and promoted rapid propagation and multiplication techniques, and leveraged public and private sector investment to expand the supply of high-quality seed potatoes for farmers. Working closely with local R&D partners, CIP conducts adaptive research on best practices for on-farm seed quality management, integrated crop management, postharvest storage and seed value chain approaches, all of which increases yields and incomes.

1. Genetic diversity: conservation, management and DNA sequencing
2. Breeding: nutritional improvement, increasead yields; climate resilience; participatory varietal selection
3. Seed system development: seed production, multiplication, distribution and quality control
4. Sustainable intensification: nutrition education, agronomic training and post-harvest handling and storage
5. Value chains: business training, improved product processing, enhanced market linkages
6. Inclusion: technologies and methods targeted particularly at women and young people
7. MEL: assessing and validating scaling tools and impact assessment methods

Research-for-development program products
The potato agri-food systems program is made up of a portfolio of research-for-development products.