The second annual meeting of the cassava program was held at CIAT last Wednesday, 30 August. For the first time, the entire Cassava team from Asia and CIATHQ met here to learn how the research projects are advancing.

During the retreat, the leader of the cassava program, Luis Augusto Becerra, presented the work that they developed with the monitoring and evaluation area, in which they defined the team’s strategic path for the next 15 years. This work was carried out using the methodology of the theory of change, with which different activities directed at achieving better results were proposed in order to have a significant impact on the research. “The idea is that we can include all the advances in the Marlo tool, and thus have a report to measure the impact of our work,” added the leader of the program.

Luis Augusto also took advantage of the occasion to clarify that “the program is global and the team is located not only at the CIAT headquarters in Palmira, but also in Asia; there are no geographic barriers and the challenge is in knowing how each person distributes their tasks so that we can all achieve constant and effective communication. There are 12 hours of difference, and we must all work to move the projects forward, overcoming all types of barriers.”

Becerra traveled for the first time to Hanoi in February and stayed there two months so that he could understand the challenges and the dynamics his team is facing. And that is why, in the retreat, he stated that the program’s teams are organized internally into six areas; each one has a defined theme that represents a necessity of the farmer. “On the basis of these six programs, the farmer will be able to communicate with the scientist in a clearer and closer manner, making it possible to have a horizontal dialog among the cassava groups in order to learn what each member has done, what happened today, and where we are going,” said Becerra.

The program’s current strategy was developed so that the farmers could have improved varieties, healthy plants, fertilization solutions for their crops, natural or chemical methods that protect the crops from insects, clean material without bacteria or fungi, and better nutrition for the farmers’ families.

The graph below explains all the farmers’ needs that the cassava team will be working on:

The second meeting achieved the integration of the participants and, in addition, closed the gaps that currently exist between the regions. Likewise, the Asia team learned the focal points [of contact] at CIATHQ, with whom they can have constant communication to discuss their frustrations, problems, or needs. “With this type of initiative, I hope to motivate the young scientists of Asia to communicate more with the more experienced researchers, so that they may work hand in hand and achieve great things together, in spite of the distance. The interactions have not been easy, and for that reason more support is needed because it is a young group that does not have a defined route for their research,” the leader emphasized.

The next steps to take for the cassava program will be to prepare to write proposals together and to look for synergies to strengthen the work that is being done in materials evaluation and in order to do that, an evaluation network will be created that can rely on the participation of all the members of the team.

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