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Three international organisations join forces to advance agriculture in Latin America and the Caribbean

Three international organisations join forces to advance agriculture in Latin America and the Caribbean

The agreement will establish technical and scientific cooperation regarding food security, focusing on research and roots and tubers value chain development within the context of climate change.

Lima, 19th May, 2017. Two international agricultural and rural development agencies will join forces with the International Potato Center (CIP), jointly pooling knowledge and experience on a variety of agricultural and environmental issues to benefit the Latin America and Caribbean region.

CIP’s genebank holds the world’s largest collection of sweet potato.

This has been made possible thanks to the signing of a framework agreement in Lima, Peru, between the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and the International Potato Center (CIP). The agreement covers the design and execution of technical cooperation projects across various areas of agricultural research and technology.

The two agencies also signed a letter of understanding with the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) to identify areas for joint cooperation on roots and tubers development.

Both the agreement and the letter of understanding were signed at CIP headquarters. In attendance were senior managers from each of the participating organisations, including IICA’s Director General, Victor M. Villalobos, Executive Director of CARDI, Barton Clarke, and CIP Director General Barbara Wells. 

IICA is a specialized agricultural agency of the Inter-American System, which has been supporting the efforts of its Member States to achieve agricultural development and well-being for rural populations for 75 years.

CARDI is an institution of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) tasked with providing research services to further agricultural development, and promoting the coordination and integration of those services throughout the Caribbean region.  

A technical cooperation agreement already exists between IICA and CARDI to jointly address priorities and challenges of the agriculture and fishing sectors in the Caribbean, in particular those related to research on development and innovation.

The agreement was signed in the Hubert Zandstra Biodiversity Complex where CIP houses 17,620 traditional cultivars and their wild crop relatives, including: potato (7,149), sweet potato (7,945) and nine other Andean roots and tubers (2,526).

The letter of understanding signed between these two entities and CIP seeks to establish guidelines for technical and scientific cooperation between the parties; most specifically for the research and development of sweet potato, a crop of great economic importance in the Caribbean, but also to identify action pertinent to food security and quality of life for the people of the Caribbean region.

The framework agreement signed between CIP and the IICA will enable collaboration on production technology, nutrition, advisory services for rural producers and climate change management.

Some areas already identified for joint initiatives are: stimulating innovation and the competitiveness of root and tuber value chains, the development of root and tuber-based products, and improving access to and management of these crops’ germplasm.

It is not only agriculture that will benefit from this partnership. The agreement also factors in collaboration on research and generation of technologies that will contribute to solving environmental problems and the challenges of climate change, with emphasis on agro-biodiversity, its conservation and sustainable use.

Barton Clarke, Executive Director of CARDI, noted: “each year, hurricanes impact at least one country in the Caribbean with devastating consequences. This joining together with IICA, which already has a presence throughout the continent, and with CIP which is not yet present in the region, will allow us to have access to a diversity of highly nutritious potatoes and sweet potato, resilient to climatic and soil changes, vital in any disaster situation”.

“Developing countries need projects like the one we are signing today because their producers need improved cultivars. Thanks to the genebank, they will have access to improved planting material, enabling them to develop new products and to improve their traditional existing crops making them disease free and resilient to climate change,” said IICA Director General, Victor M. Villalobos.

Barbara Wells outlines the research on combating vitamin A deficiency with orange-fleshed sweet potato which won three CIP scientists the World Food Prize in 2016, to the delegation: Barton Clarke (Executive Director, CARDI), Javier García (IICA Representative in Peru), Victor M. Villalobos (Director General, IICA) and Kurt Manrique (International Specialist in Agricultural Innovation Management, IICA).

“It is clear that with this agreement all the signatories, CARDI, CIP and IICA, are winners. IICA supports CARDI by facilitating access to centers of excellence like CIP, and as we function as a bridge, so we also help the growth and development of the genebank. We offer material for agricultural impact, and a network of experts and international specialists, projects and practices,” added Villalobos.

For her part, Barbara Wells, Director General of CIP, said: “Chronic malnutrition is a reality. Orange-fleshed sweet potato is an improved variety of the sweet potato we already know, which contains beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A. It’s a great weapon in the fight against malnutrition, because of its high vitamin A content which is assimilated rapidly and is transmitted, for example, through mothers’ milk to their babies, avoiding blindness in children resulting from malnutrition”.

The framework agreement covers an initial period of four years, renewable, during which time a series of agreements or letters of understanding will be signed specific to the implementation of joint activities.

The letter of understanding will be valid for one year, during which time the three agencies will work together to identify future root and tuber initiatives in areas such as germplasm management, plant breeding, production technologies and the strengthening of value chains.

More information:

Evangelina Beltrán, Coordinator, Director General’s Office, IICA

Barton Clarke, Executive Director, CARDI

Andre Devaux, CIP Regional Director for Latin America

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