Roots and tubers improving the lives of the poor
The International Potato Center, known by its Spanish acronym CIP, was founded in 1971 as a root and tuber research-for-development institution to deliver sustainable solutions to the pressing world problems of hunger, poverty, and the degradation of natural resources.
CIP is truly a global center, with headquarters in Lima, Peru and offices in 30 countries across Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Working closely with hundreds of partners worldwide, CIP seeks to achieve food security, increased well-being, and gender equity for poor people in root and tuber farming, and food systems in the developing world. CIP furthers its mission through rigorous research, innovation in science and technology, and capacity strengthening among farmers and partners.
CIP and its partners work across the agricultural spectrum. From the laboratory to the marketplace, CIP biologists, entomologists, agronomists, nutritionists, and social scientists conduct research and carry out projects.
The Potato… and other roots and tubers.
CIP’s research originally focused on the potato, which originated and was first domesticated in the Andean Highlands. Produced in over 100 countries, the potato is the world’s third most important food crop after rice and wheat. The potato is a resilient tuber that grows underground making it more robust to climate changes. Together with roots, tubers play a critical role in the global food system, especially in the developing world. They are among the top 10 most commonly consumed food staples and provide one of the cheapest sources of energy and vital nutrients. Additionally, they grow in marginal conditions with relatively few inputs and simple techniques – making them ideal “climate-smart” crops.
Sweetpotato is a cheap, nutritious solution for developing countries needing to grow more food on less land for rapidly multiplying populations. The orange-fleshed varieties of sweetpotato can play a key role in alleviating vitamin A deficiency, which is rampant among children in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
Roots and tubers share important scientific similarities. They are vegetatively-propagated, meaning that they are not grown from seed but from cuttings or clones. As these crops are often locally grown and consumed, they are less affected than grains by food price fluctuations.
Global Science Programs
The Center’s global priorities include sustaining root and tuber biodiversity; breeding more nutritious, adaptable, pest-and-disease-resistant varieties; and building resilient agro-economic-social systems for marginal populations in developing countries.
CIP’s five Global Science Programs are cross-cutting among roots and tubers:
- Genetic Resources
- Genetics and Crop Improvement
- Genomics and Biotechnology
- Integrated Crop and Systems Research
- Social and Health Sciences
Using the “Pro-Poor Research and Development” model, CIP completed a rigorous targeting exercise to identify regional priorities. The first step was defining the agro-ecological regions where potato and other root and tuber cultivation are widespread among poor people, and where increasing productivity is most likely to enhance their livelihoods. These data were then combined with an analysis of livelihood indicators (income per capita, nutritional status, child mortality rates, maternal mortality, etc.).
CIP’s four targeted regions are:
- Latin America and the Caribbean
- South Saharan Africa
- Southwest Central Asia
- East and Southeast Asian Pacific
Building partnerships and promoting gender equity are themes common to all CIP research.