Tratado Internacional sobre los Recursos Fitogenéticos para la Alimentación y la Agricultura

BSF Project - Fourth Cycle

Conservation and Sustainable Utilization of the underutilized Taro to Increase Food Security and Livelihood of Marginalized Communities Faced with Climate Change
Where are we working?

In the past, taro has been neglected and underutilized as a food crop in Southeast Asia. However, in the face of severe climate uncertainties and increasing demand for alternatives, taro proves an excellent crop for food and nutrition security. This project aims to strengthen on-farm and community-level conservation, sustainable use and effective management of the genetic resources of this underutilized crop in the Southeast Asia and South Pacific regions (Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines).

What are we doing?

The main project objective is to introduce and conserve taro varieties that are eco-climatically matched and develop good agricultural practices for higher quality production by involving farmers in areas that are particularly vulnerable to climate change.
Targeted countries are currently screening and characterizing local varieties of taro for climate change adaptation and resilience potential (pest and disease tolerance, genetic analysis, nutritional and phytochemical properties, post-harvest study), in an initiative that involves the exchange among country partners of local varieties with high potential. Logistical arrangements and quarantine requirements have been made for the safe transport of these materials.
Seed production systems through in vitro mass propagation techniques are in place to regenerate and multiply taro varieties, in order to ensure a continuous supply of planting material and the establishment of a community seed bank. Good agricultural practices (GAP) and tools for pest, disease and post-harvest management are being developed through field evaluation methods, to be used in Farmer Field Schools.
Experts from member countries will be involved in developing good agricultural practices and tools for agronomic practices, pest and disease management and post-harvest practices. The GAP package will be revised and updated, based on the findings from the model farms as the project progresses.

What has been achieved to date?

Baseline surveys to gather information and identify model farms for Farmer Field Schools have been carried out in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, with a total of 194 respondents interviewed at 16 sites. Through this exercise, the project teams were able to observe different aspects of the taro value chain by interviewing farmers involved in production and traders involved in the market phase. The baseline surveys identified farmers in areas vulnerable to climate change for on-farm and community-level conservation, with model farms established to test potential varieties using Farmer Field School approaches and supported by Knowledge Centres.
At least six varieties of taro from three country partners (Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines) have been selected to be introduced into Farmer Field Schools and to be exchanged between partners for research on adaptation of varieties from different countries to new locations and climate conditions. Farmers will benefit from these promising local varieties, which are better adapted and more resilient to climatic factors, potentially enabling them to increase their production and incomes.
Through in vitro mass propagation techniques, supplies of good quality planting material are being made available for farmers. The introduction of community seed banks is helping to ensure that unique and locally adapted varieties and their associated traditional knowledge are preserved.

Who has benefited?

At present, 278 farmers have been involved in implementing the project’s activities at 16 sites in the three countries. Indonesia has the highest number of farmers, followed by the Philippines and Malaysia, with 135, 92 and 51 farmers, respectively. The baseline study has provided insights into local production practices in all three countries. The findings have helped partners to focus their research and capacity-building programmes on specific areas of interest. The study has also proved crucial in highlighting the issues faced by farmers and emphasizing their learning and development needs. There has also been a focus on the involvement of women in taro farming and the output of the survey shows the importance of improving their engagement.

Best practices and success stories

Most of the activities have involved farmers’ communities in the field, through the baseline survey and the development of model farms and Farmer Field Schools. Farmers were eager to participate in these activities and gave positive feedback. Based on the baseline survey, 13 model farms will be established and plans are in hand for at least six varieties to be introduced to farmers through these structures. The varieties have been selected for their good performance in terms of drought tolerance, yields, low oxalate content and nutritional values. Evaluations of these varieties will be tested with local farmers on the model farms, to ensure that research undertaken in this project is both participatory and demand-driven, and that it responds to the needs of local communities.
Window 2 - Immediate action projects
Region: Asia
Target Countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines
Implementing institution: Malaysia Agriculture Research and Development Institute (MARDI). Link to dedicated website
Partners involved: Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI), IPB Bogor Agricultural University, University of the Philippines Los Banos
Contact details: Rosliza Jajuli

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