RTB gathers steam

Anne Vézina Thursday, 22 November 2012

Officially launched in January, the Roots, Tubers and Bananas CGIAR Research Program is up and running and looking to the future.

After nine months of working remotely to lay the foundations of the CGIAR Research Program (CRP) on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB), the CRP’s team of managers and scientific leaders had its first face-to-face meeting at the International Symposium of the International Society for Tuber & Root Crops (ISTRC) held in the Nigerian city of Abeokuta at the end of September. The conference had set aside a special session on RTB to present the CRP’s 7 thematic areas.

Even though all the themes cut across the CRP’s mandate crops, Inge Van den Bergh, the leader of Theme 7’s communication, knowledge management and capacity strengthening component, opted to focus on the banana. For her talk on Knowledge Sharing for Impact, the ProMusa coordinator presented the redevelopment of the ProMusa website as a knowledge-sharing platform to help scientists navigate the ever expanding knowledge base on bananas.

Another banana-related moment was the segment on the BBTV initiative in the presentation on managing priority pests and diseases. The initiative is a public-private partnership to address the spread of banana bunchy top in sub-Saharan Africa. Led by Bioversity International and the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), in collaboration with universities, private partners, and regional and national organizations, the initiative aims to develop approaches for recovering, maintaining and improving smallholder production of bananas in the presence of the devastating virus.

The RTB Program Director Graham Thiele also presented the six-stage process being used to identify which problems the research program should address to ensure highest impact on food security, improved nutrition and income generation. The participatory process of setting priorities is being conducted in parallel for cassava, sweet potato, potato, yams and, of course, bananas, whose exercise will be featured on the ProMusa website. In the meantime, the RTB program has been commended for leading the way on priority setting by no less than Frank Rijsberman, the CEO of the CGIAR Consortium.

After the ISTRC conference, the RTB team and representatives of partner institutes moved to the IITA headquarters in Ibadan to discuss the program’s achievements, highlighted in the mid-year report, and reflect on the way ahead.

The RTB program was set up to exploit the underutilized potential of root, tuber and banana crops and take advantage of complementarities and synergies between crops and partners to improve nutrition and food security. Its partnership strategy is designed to expand the reach, relevance and impact of the program. As a result, it is expected that by 2021 RTB crops will play a greater role in a diversified and more resilient global food security system.

For more information on the RTB, and to follow its progress, visit its website at www.rtb.cgiar.org.