RTB crops in humanitarian settings

In humanitarian settings, where communities grapple with conflicts, natural disasters, and displacement, access to stable food sources is often precarious. Root, tuber, and banana (RTB) crops are vital lifelines in these contexts, offering sustenance, resilience, and hope for rebuilding shattered communities.

Replanted cassava cuttings after Mekong mega drought in Laos (2019-2020). Erik Delaquis, Alliance Bioversity – CIAT (2022).

A young girl using her feet to spread cassava chips out to dry in Cambodia after forced early harvest to save roots from the worst flooding in decades. Erik Delaquis, Alliance Bioversity – CIAT (2022).

Emergence of oca (Oxalis tuberosa, Andean Tuber) during the event of drought in Peru in 2022. Israel Navarrete, Centro Internacional de la Papa (2022).

RTB crops, including cassava, potato, sweetpotato, banana, and yam, play a pivotal role in addressing the urgent needs of populations affected by humanitarian crises. RTBs are valued for their resilience, flexibility of production cycles, and high acceptability in local diets. For instance, sweetpotatoes, with their short growth cycle, and high-calorie and vitamin A content, sustain families in regions affected by disaster or crop failure. Similarly, bananas, perennial and versatile in their uses, offer stability to communities facing food shortages. Likewise, potatoes, with their nutrient-dense profile and quick maturity, bolster resilience in communities facing food shortages.

However, despite their potential, RTB-based interventions encounter significant limitations in humanitarian settings. Limited access to quality planting material, inadequate understanding of farmer-managed seed systems, and regulatory constraints hamper the effective implementation of humanitarian interventions employing RTB crops.

Examples on how RTBs could aid in addressing humanitarian crises and ways to enhance seed systems are described below:

For further information about the use of RTB crops in humanitarian settings, please contact:

Frederick Grant

Written by: Fleur Kilwinger, Erik Delaquis, Israel Navarrete, and Jorge Andrade-Piedra