CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas

 Program leader      Graham Thiele


The CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) is working globally to harness the untapped potential of those crops in order to improve food security, nutrition, income, climate change resilience and gender equity of smallholders.

More than 300 million people, many below the poverty line, in developing countries depend on root, tuber and banana crops for food and income.

Root, tuber and banana crops – bananas (including plantains), cassava, potatoes, sweetpotatoes, yams, and tropical and Andean roots and tubers– are some of the most important staple crops in the world’s poorest regions. They provide around 15% or more of the daily per capita calorie intake for the 763 million people living in the least developed countries. Often rich in key nutrients such as provitamin A, RTB crops can significantly improve nutrition and food security. Many RTB crops can be grown with few inputs and often under harsh conditions. Yet they respond very well to intensification and are high yielders in terms of calories produced per hectare. As important cash crops, they can help boost family incomes and are frequently grown or marketed by women.

But RTB crops present several common challenges. High genetic complexity means breeding is especially difficult and consumers often have particular quality preferences in addition to higher yield to be addressed. RTB crops are propagated clonally rather than with seeds, which means seed remultiplication is needed close to farmers’ fields and allows yield-reducing pathogens to build up over time. This calls for a strong design of private-public seed systems. The crops’ bulk and perishability creates opportunities for postharvest innovation. Whilst sometimes considered womens’ crops their production and marketing involves women and men in varying ways putting a premium on understanding gender differences.

Where We Work
  • Africa: Ethiopia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Cameroon, DRC, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia, Burundi, Congo, Ivory Coast.
  • Latin America and the Caribbean: Nicaragua, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Haiti, Peru
  • Asia: Bangladesh, Vietnam, India, Nepal, China, Indonesia, Thailand.
Impacts by 2022

By 2022, RTB together with its partners will achieve impact in the following areas:

  • 20 million people, of which 50 percent are women, have increased their income
  • 30,000 small and medium enterprises are operating profitably in the RTB seed and processing sectors
  • 8 million farm households have increased crop yield through the adoption of improved varieties and sustainable management practices
  • 10 million people of which 50 percent are women, have improved their diet quality
  • 1.9 million hectares of current RTB crops production area converted to sustainable cropping systems.