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Four agricultural innovations putting women ahead How International Potato Center innovations are helping build more inclusive systems in Africa

How do we ensure vulnerable populations (women, young and displaced people) play an active role in accelerating achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals? Specifically for the agriculture sector:

"We need not be afraid of addressing gender concerns in agriculture. We need to look at it as an opportunity to increase the uptake of our technology development. Says Vivian Polar Gender, Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist with the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tuber and Bananas (RTB), led by the International Potato Center (CIP).

CIP delivers innovative science-based solutions to enhance access to affordable nutritious food, foster inclusive sustainable business and employment growth, and drive the climate resilience of root and tuber agri-food systems. With more than 45 years of research for development in potato and sweetpotato, CIP seeks to ensure both men and women are benefiting from innovations. The following examples showcase how these innovations benefit thousands of women and young people in Africa putting them ahead. It is no longer 'business as usual' for most of them.

Cecinta Nduru owns a satellite cuttings nursery for seed potato production

Quality seed potato is often difficult to access for rural smallholders in Kenya, forcing many to rely on uncertified seed potato. This can result in low yields that average 10-11 tonnes per hectare or total crop failure.

However, in Eastern Kenya, Cecinta Nduru has seen an opportunity to address the seed problem in her area. A beneficiary who has worked closely with CIP in partnership with Farm Input Promotions (FIPs) Africa, Cecinta has abandoned ware potato production to focus on the more lucrative seed provision business.

For the first 2019 potato planting season, demand for her seed was so high that she had to restrict purchase to only 50kg per customer to ensure all her clients plant her clean seed.

Cecinta has also embraced a new technology for seed production introduced by CIP in Kenya in 2017. This entails the production and use of rooted apical cuttings as starter material for seed production as opposed to certified seed.

Cuttings are produced from tissue culture plantlets in the screen house, rather than minitubers, and after rooting, are planted in the field. Each cutting produces 7 to 10, and up to 15+ tubers which are multiplied a further season or two, then the harvest is used and/or sold as seed.

Cecinta Nduru learns about production of cuttings from tissue culture plantlets.

Cecinta has established a satellite apical cuttings nursery for seed potato production on her farm. She has so far sold 4,000 of the 6,000 cuttings she produced in her first commercial cycle for a total cost of KES 40,000 (USD 400) and is still producing more to sell during this current season.

This technology (cuttings) gives very high returns in terms of seed quantity and quality. As my seed is clean, i get very good returns from my customers. Cecinta Nduru, Eastern Kenya.

Cecinta is a beneficiary under the Feed the Future Kenya Accelerated Value Chain Development project funded by USAID. Learn more about the new technology that she has adopted: Rooted apical cuttings to boost potato seed systems in Kenya

Biofortified orange-fleshed sweetpotato

Vitamin A deficiency causes blindness, limits growth, weakens immunity, and increases mortality. Afflicting over 140 million preschool children in 118 countries and more than seven million pregnant women, it is the leading cause of child blindness in developing countries. By 2019, CIP and partners had developed and disseminated dozens of biofortified, vitamin A-rich orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP) varieties in Africa and Asia, helping to raise the nutritional status and incomes of more than five million households.

Biofortification has focused on increasing the pro-vitamin A content through conventional breeding, boosting the availability of vitamin A for farm families and consumers. By promoting OFSP nutrition education at the community level, CIP-led work has made it a cost-effective and sustainable source of vitamin A for vulnerable populations, especially women and young children.

"Usually in a household in a village, whatever the children like the mother will like, but for the taste of the male farmers in Africa, it has to have high dry matter content and have productivity. The children like the sweetpotato that is a little soft. Men like what is dry. We have all their tastes in mind. Maria Andrade, Senior Sweetpotato Breeder at CIP.

By working with large food processors and fresh root traders in Africa, CIP has facilitated the development of new value chains for OFSP, and income generating opportunities for women and young people. CIP's work with biofortified potato is made possible thanks to several donors under the Sweetpotato for Profit and Health Initiative including UKaid, USAID, Irish Aid, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Read more: Take a bite out of Maria Andrade; Growing food security with climate smart sweetpotato; 2016 World Food Prize awarded to CIP scientists

Accelerating selection of improved sweetpotato varieties for the benefit of women (and men)

“With climate change, varieties will need to respond to hotter and drier conditions, but also more weather variability and extreme events, higher salinity with rising sea levels and more attacks from pest and diseases as higher temperatures increase incidence and severity,” notes Hugo Campos, Director for Research at CIP.

In an effort to reduce the breeding time for new varieties and cushion farmers from the impact of climate change—which disproportionately affects women—CIP scientists and partners are working on developing a set of “next generation” breeder tools for African sweetpotato breeders in Africa. These tools will facilitate crop improvement and contribute towards increasing genetic gains in sweetpotato, which offers food, nutrition and income security to thousands of households in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). According to Dorcus Gemenet, who works under this project, such tools will make improved varieties available to farmers much faster.

The project is supported by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). Learn more: Young Scientist has big dreams for savior crop; Harnessing sweetpotato genomics to improve breeding and farmers lives.

Triple S: Technology enables beneficiaries conserve planting material during dry seasons

Triple S – for storage in sand and sprouting – is a practice that allows farmers in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) to produce their own sweetpotato vines in time for the planting season. It consists of storing sweetpotato roots in dry sand following the harvest, planting them in seedbeds 6-8 weeks before the rainy season, and watering them to produce enough vines to plant when the rains begin. This technology can result in earlier harvests, providing food and income at a time that is commonly known as “the hunger season.”

With support from the CGIAR Research Program on RTB Scaling Fund, CIP colleagues and partners are working to take Triple S to scale, with an aim of reaching 45,000 farmers in Ethiopia and Ghana between 2018 and 2019. This initiative is designed to reach as many women as it does men, since women and children have the greatest need for the vitamin A that OFSP provides, yet women are all too often underrepresented in such interventions. Read more: Triple S method helps sweetpotato farmers plant and harvest earlier.

CIP is a research-for-development organization with a focus on potato, sweetpotato and Andean roots and tubers. It delivers innovative science-based solutions to enhance access to affordable nutritious food, foster inclusive sustainable business and employment growth, and drive the climate resilience of root and tuber agri-food systems. Headquartered in Lima, Peru, CIP has a research presence in more than 20 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. www.cipotato.org. CIP is a CGIAR research center. CGIAR is a global research partnership for a food-secure future. Its science is carried out by 15 research centers in close collaboration with hundreds of partners across the globe. www.cgiar.org

CIP THANKS ALL DONORS AND ORGANIZATIONS WHICH GLOBALLY SUPPORT ITS WORK THROUGH THEIR CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE CGIAR TRUST FUND

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Vivian Atakos
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Photos: Hugh Rutherford for CIP; Vivian Atakos (CIP-SSA); Monica Parker (CIP-SSA)

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