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Crops for the future in small developing island states

A report from the World Congress on Root and Tuber Crops

January 27, 2016

The World Congress on Root and Tuber Crops (WCRTC), was held in Nanning, China, on 18-22 January 2016. Over 450 scientists from around the world attended the Congress. CTA facilitated the participation of four Caribbean and Pacific experts; Jacklyn Broomes (University of West Indies, UWI, Barbados), Dr Gregory Robin (the Caribbean Agricultural Research & Development Institute, CARDI, St. Vincent the Grenadines), Ronnie Dotaona (University of Technology, Papua New Guinea), and Boney Wera (National Agricultural Research Institute, NARI, Papua New Guinea), through the Intra-ACP Agricultural Policy Programme.

carouselJAF ChinaClockwise: Jacklyn Broomes, Boney Wera, Ronnie Dotaona, and Greg Robin.Roots and tubers are priority commodities for research, value chain development and food and nutrition security in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. CTA is keen to improve the evidence base to support policy and strategic decision-making as well as inform public debate on the future development and commercialisation of these crops.

CTA commissioned the experts to prepare four evidence-based papers which reflect the national and regional situation, their domain expertise, their organisation's priorities and indicate the way forward, building on the latest knowledge that they obtained from their attendance at the World Congress on Root and Tuber Crops, in Nanning. "We are confident that the knowledge gained by the scientists as well as the networks established will contribute to the root and tuber crops development and commercialisation thrusts in the Caribbean and the Pacific", said Judith Ann Francis, CTA Senior Programme Coordinator for Science and Technology Policy.

This is particularly important as the conference aimed to raise awareness of the importance of the root and tuber crops in the world, review recent scientific progress, identify and set priorities for new opportunities and challenges and to chart a course to seek research and development support for areas where it is currently inadequate or lacking.

Three scientists whose participation at the WCRTC was facilitated had this to say about their experience at the Congress:

"The 1st World Congress on Root and Tuber Crops was truly thought-provoking. Barbados and the Caribbean at large, stand to benefit from the wealth of knowledge shared. The vast research, technological advances and social programs geared towards the increased utilisation of root and tuber crops around the world, show that these are indeed crops for the future in our small developing island states."

Jacklyn Broomes, University of West Indies, UWI, Barbados


First let me thank the CTA for providing me with the opportunity to participate in the WCRTC as the International Society for Tropical Root Crops (ISTRC) Regional Councillor for the Caribbean. The paper entitled 'Research and Development Activities in Countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on Roots and Tubers - with a focus on Cassava'1, was presented in the thematic session Root and Tuber Crops, Value Chains / Industry.

Over 450 scientists from around the world attended the congress. I had the opportunity to interact with them, enabling me to gather useful information for writing an evidence-based paper entitled Roots and Tubers for Value Chain Development and Food and Nutritional Security: Lessons for the ACP Region from the World Congress on Root and Tuber Crops.

I attended the following thematic sessions: Processing / Value Addition for Feed, Food and Industry; Roots and Tuber Crops Value Chains Industry; Root and Tuber Crops Nutrition and Climatic Change and Environmental Impact. I also interacted face-to-face with 10 eminent scientists.

During the bidding sessions for the next meeting venue, I placed a bid for the Caribbean to host the next ISTR Meeting in 2018. This I intend to follow-up with the Executive Director of CARDI.

Dr Gregory Robin, CARDI, St. Vincent and the Grenadines


Ronnie Dotaoana also presented a paper during the World Congress. His paper was entitled 'Efficacy of Metarhizium anisopliae grown on solid substrate for the control of sweet potato weevil (Cyclas formicarius) in a glasshouse environment'. 

"From the presentations, the plenary sessions and field trip, I could see what Papua New Guinea is missing in the areas of research for development for roots and tuber crops. These will be included in my evidence-based paper".

Ronnie Dotaona, University of Technology, Papua New Guinea


1 Abstract of the paper Research and Development Activities in Countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on Roots and Tubers - with a focus on Cassava, by Gregory Robin, Vyjayanthi Lopez, and Francis Asiedu.

Member States of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have prioritized roots and tubers for development, given the need for identifying new pillars to enhance agricultural and economic growth, reduce the high food-import bill, generate employment, revitalize the rural sector and arrest the incidence of non-communicable diseases. Among roots and tubers, cassava has the potential to become a key pillar of the food and agriculture sector and of the economic and social transformation of the Caribbean. There are however several challenges and constraints to the cassava value chain development (production, processing, marketing, consumption) that are currently being addressed in an effort to develop and promote the regional cassava industry. A significant amount of research and development work is also being conducted on other staples – sweet potato (focus on integrated crop management and value addition), dasheen (introduction of new genotypes, to improve on the narrow genetic base that exists in major producing countries) and yam (production systems). The Paper gives an overview of recent and ongoing research and development work conducted by CARDI and FAO on the above-mentioned staples in CARICOM countries.