Lima, Peru — In partnership with the Government of Georgia and its Ministry of Agriculture, the International Potato Center (CIP) has embarked upon an ambitious project to support expansion and diversification of the country's potato crop, as well as that of the Central Asia and Caucuses region.
Government officials are expected to meet with CIP's Director General, Dr. Barbara H. Wells this week to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that will officially launch the project.
"CIP's presence in Georgia will help support cutting-edge research into resilient potato varieties, develop new methods of distribution of both seeds and crops, and generate meaningful data around baseline potato production and increased income for farmers," says Dr. Rusudan Mdivani, Regional Liaison and Potato Scientist for Central Asia Regional Operations at CIP. "We are committed to working with the appropriate authorities to enhance disease resistance, drought and heat tolerance and bio-fortification in the national potato supply by sharing our accumulated knowledge around water conservation, integrated crop management and production both in greenhouses and in the field."
The region's reliance on potato cannot be underestimated. Looking specifically at Georgia, where most dishes include potato in one form or another, potato is considered a primary crop (along with cereals and vegetables). In the country's Northwestern and Southern regions, the area under potato cultivation varies between 38 000-40 000 ha annually, but productivity remains low. In fact, with potato yields ranging from 8.9 to 12 t/ha (average data of the last ten years), Georgia is among the countries with the lowest yield. In general, production is only three or four times higher than the amount of seed planted.
The five-year plan, commencing this year and expected to conclude in 2021, seeks to boost yield commensurate with population growth while building more climate-smart techniques and innovative mechanization practices into potato-cultivation methods — all of which can improve farmers' annual income.
"Securing relationships with countries like Georgia is critical in reaching impact at scale," says CIP Director General Dr. Barbara H. Wells. "Georgia is a country that already consumes significant amounts of potato so any improvements to potato nutrition and yield will undoubtedly improve the food security and nutrition in the country."
Prof. Dr. Levan Ujmajuridze, Director of LEPL Scientific-Research Centre of Agriculture for Georgia, said he was delighted that the MoU formalized an ongoing relationship with CIP that would bring innovation and technical capacity to Georgia and that both organizations could benefit from learning from each other.
The project will mark the establishment of CIP's 19th host country agreement globally. Its primary goals will be:
- Strengthen capacity for potato production at the regional level
- Serve as a resource for germplasm distribution throughout the region
- Implement methods of high quality seed production and distribution
- Conduct research into potato varieties that are nutrient-dense, late blight-resistant and high-yielding
- Train farmers in multi-cropping, conservation and other climate-smart techniques
The opening of the new CIP center in Georgia and the establishment of these goals are tenets of CIP's "Agile Potato for Asia" program, which aims to develop more sustainable intensification of agricultural practices as it also supports research into potato varieties better able to withstand climate extremes such as drought or flooding, as well as varieties with greater nutritional value — such as increased levels of micro nutrients, iron and zinc — to support a healthier population of potato consumers.
The International Potato Center, known by its Spanish acronym CIP, was founded in 1971 as a root and tuber research-for-development institution delivering sustainable solutions to the pressing world problems of hunger, poverty, and the degradation of natural resources. CIP is a global center, with headquarters in Lima, Peru and offices in 20 developing countries across Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Working closely with our partners, CIP seeks to achieve food security, increased well-being, and gender equity for poor people in the developing world. CIP furthers its mission through rigorous research, innovation in science and technology, and capacity strengthening regarding root and tuber farming and food systems.
CIP is part of the CGIAR Consortium, a global partnership that unites organizations engaged in research for a food secure future. CGIAR research is dedicated to reducing rural poverty, increasing food security, improving human health and nutrition, and ensuring more sustainable management of natural resources. Donors include individual countries, major foundations, and international entities.