Philipp Aerni
World Trade Institute (University of Bern) and Center for Comparative and International Studies (ETH Zurich).

Cassava is regarded as the crop of last resort for millions of marginal farmers and their domestic animals in tropical regions. The Cassava Biotechnology Network (CBN) is addressing the major socioeconomic and agronomic challenges of this orphan crop by bundling the scarce resources available and uniting the major stakeholders involved in cassava breeding, production, marketing, and consumption worldwide. Based on a small expert survey, this article investigates the importance of the problems in cassava agriculture and the approaches considered to be most effective in addressing them. The author concludes that the CBN represents an innovative, demand-oriented and multistakeholder-driven crop research network that is able to effectively address the challenges in cassava agriculture that were perceived to be most important in the survey. Its innovations could be of particular benefit to Central Africa—a region that is highly vulnerable to starvation and malnutrition and relies mostly on cassava as the main staple food. However, in order to make it happen, some major institutional bottlenecks need to be addressed in the international agricultural research system.

Key words: Agricultural research, cassava, Central Africa, crop network, innovation.