The International Potato Center (CIP) has embarked upon an ambitious initiative to support expansion and diversification of potato crop in Georgia. On January 26, 2016 CIP’s Director General, Dr. Barbara H. Wells met with Georgia's Ministry of Agriculture to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that will officially launch the project. Accordingly, starting from 2016 CIP activities in Central Asia and the Caucasus (CAC) region will expand, now with a regional office not only in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, but also in the city of Tbilisi, Georgia.
Marking the establishment of CIP’s 19th host country agreement globally and the 2nd in CAC region, the project's primary goals will be:
The opening of the new CIP centre 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.
“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, CIP Regional Liaison and Potato Scientist for CAC. “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 North-western and Southern regions, the area under potato cultivation varies between 38000-40000 ha annually, but productivity remains low. 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.” Professor Dr. Levan Ujmajuridze, Director of LEPL Scientific-Research Centre of Agriculture for Georgia, commented 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 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 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.