Spotlight on CIAT’s cassava research in Asia

25 June, 2015 by (comments)
_DSC8773

Cassava is now a key cash crop in Asia but needs to be well managed to protect the environment. Credit: G.Smith/CIAT

As the World Congress on Root and Tuber Crops approaches in Nanning, China from October 5-10, a new CGIAR brief highlights cassava’s transformation from a humble to a prized, climate-resilient crop in Asia.

The approaching Congress brings together scientists from Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean, to discuss the value of climate-resilient root and tuber crops, particularly since Asia is especially vulnerable to climate change.

Seeds of change

In Southeast Asia, cassava is grown by over eight million farmers as a primary source of income and calories, especially among poor, rural upland communities. Despite years of research neglect and stagnating yields during the 1980s, cassava has had a dramatic come-back as a popular cash crop – but it still needs to be coupled with good management practices to be sustainable.

Cassava can be processed into a wide variety of produce and demand is increasing. Credit: G.Smith/CIAT

Cassava can be processed into a wide variety of produce and demand is increasing. Credit: G.Smith/CIAT

The brief outlines the role CIAT’s scientists and regional partners have played in developing improved cassava varieties, while promoting best management practices, creating opportunities for smallholder farmers to improve their food security and contributing to better incomes through expanded market opportunities.

CIAT’s genebank in Colombia contains the world’s most important collection of cassava germplasm – a total of 6,592 accessions from 28 countries conserved using in vitro techniques. Through collaboration with national partners in Asia, CIAT continues to ensure new and improved cassava varieties are adapted to local conditions.

Opportunities ahead

The Congress in China, which has already opened for registration, is evidence of growing interest in the cassava industry in Asia. The region is now home to the world’s leading cassava exporters. And although demand is driving wider economic development in the region, beneficiaries are still mostly smallholder farmers, making it an important focus for empowering rural communities.

Farmers are trained in management practices which reduce erosion and boost productivity. Credit: G.Smith/CIAT

Farmers are trained in management practices which reduce erosion and boost productivity. Credit: G.Smith/CIAT

Scientists continue to work with local communities to make them aware of the impacts of climate change, presenting them with scalable options for mitigating and adapting to weather changes.

Through the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas, CIAT continues to build on achievements in the region by breeding new crop varieties to address constraints such as low production and low resistance to diseases. A new emphasis on genomics – the study of genes and their functions – should accelerate future progress toward these goals.

Expanding root and tuber markets, and opportunities and challenges ahead, make for dynamic dialogue at the Congress – watch this space for more information. Download the overview of CIAT’s work in Asia: From roots to riches in Southeast Asia: Improved cassava reduces poverty, hunger and climate risk.

The Congress will discuss many opportunities and challenges, including those presented by pests and diseases. Credit: G.Smith/CIAT

The Congress will discuss many opportunities and challenges, including those presented by pests and diseases. Credit: G.Smith/CIAT

Key highlights and results:

  • Farmers’ gross annual income rose by US$386 million, or US$51 per family in Vietnam and US$460 in Thailand, due to increased cassava yields.
  • The adoption of improved varieties resulting from research by CIAT and its partners in the region has generated benefits worth almost US$12 billion over the last 20 years.
  • The returns on investment in cassava research in Southeast Asia are very high, reaching an internal rate of return (IRR) of 345% in Vietnam.

 For further information:

CIAT. (2013). Action Now, Warn Experts, as Pests Threaten Indonesia’s Food Security.

CIAT. (2013). Clamp-Down Launched on Devastating Threats to Starch Crop. 

CIAT. (2014). Managing Mealybugs in Cassava.

Robinson, J. and C.S. Srinivasan. (2013). Case-Studies on the Impact of Germplasm Collection, Conservation, Characterization and Evaluation (GCCCE) in the CGIAR. CGIAR Standing Panel on Impact Assessment. 

Tagged With: , , , ,
Filed Under: Cassava, Climate Change, Climate Change website, Crops, Crops website