Root and tuber crops (RTCs) are versatile crops because of their various purposes not just in agriculture and health, but also in food security and climate change resilience. In the post-Haiyan typhoon in the Philippines, sweetpotato and cassava were the main crops distributed as planting materials in the food relief and rehabilitation efforts in Leyte and Samar.
However, despite their potential to address agricultural, environmental, and health-related concerns, RTCs are often overlooked and undervalued. There are untapped opportunities for increasing utilization and consumption of RTCs, and the productivity in smallholder farms remains low due to a host of reasons. Efforts of policies geared toward the improvement of the industry and investment in R&D are limited and dissemination of technology is inefficient.
Nevertheless, over the last decade, initiatives have emerged through the financial support from the local government, international organizations, and donors.
One of which was the regional congress, “Root and Tuber Crops for Food Security and Climate Change Resilience in Asia,” organized by the International Potato Center (CIP) and Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCAARRD) in collaboration with Philippine Root Crop Research and Training Center (PhilRootcrops) of the Visayas State University (VSU) with financial support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the European Union (EU). The event was held on October 17-18, 2019 in Luxent Hotel, Quezon City.
The regional congress served as a venue for discussing and promoting cross learning in RTC science and technology, policy measures, and pragmatic approaches for exploiting opportunities and challenges amidst climate change.
Furthermore, the event aimed to share the key findings, knowledge products and recommendations for further scaling up of innovations introduced by FoodSTART+, a research grant funded by the EU and IFAD, which partnered with five large-scale IFAD investments in the Philippines, India, Indonesia and Vietnam to enhance food resilience in upland and coastal communities, the most vulnerable to climate change, through RTC innovations.
Over 100 participants from the Philippines, India, Myanmar, Vietnam, Lao PDR, Indonesia, and Pacific islands registered for the Congress.
The Congress consisted of four parts: Plenary Sessions on breeding, agronomy, pest and disease management, and contribution of roots and tubers to the resilience of agri-food systems; Knowledge Learning Fair (KLF) showcasing innovations in seed systems, postharvest practices and product development from selected organizations; Roundtable discussions; and Field Visits in Pampanga to present successful experiences on cultivation, processing and contractual arrangements for sweetpotato and cassava.
Through this initiative, researchers, extension workers, policy makers, private sector, development practitioners, farmers’ organizations, donors, media practitioners, and the general public gained improved understanding, greater awareness, and increased appreciation of RTCs and their benefits in addressing societal issues, including food security and climate change resilience.