The GCP21 Information Platform

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Developing a Global Cassava Information Platform

Access to the latest technical information is key for the improvement of cassava productivity. However, access to reliable and recent information about cassava is currently not convenient and requires much time and effort. More than 27 databases on the crop are disseminated in different places. Most of the time they are incomplete or inadequate. We have to develop, in coordination with RTB, a portal that provides all information possible and directing users to the best locations to access information. We also need to develop new databases that are not yet available (e.g., a database of the full gamut of people in the world working on cassava: scientists, developers, technicians, extension services, processors, industries, and donors). Such a database would provide information about all the R&D cassava projects that are being developed, to serve as a basis of information for those who intend to develop new or complementary projects. It would provide all the statistical updated information about the crop needed to supply the cassava community with readily accessible information to make any appropriate decision or to convince intended users and beneficiaries as well as donors and policy makers. GCP21 will make the development of a modern global platform of information one of its top priorities.

Despite discontinuities in the funding of GCP21, the network has organized a number of key activities over the past decade, which has been truly appreciated by the cassava community. The GCP21 scientific conferences are now considered, worldwide, as THE cassava conferences to attend. The publication of the first announcement of the cassava genome sequence in 2009 also set-up GCP21 as a cassava leader capable of developing a vision for the crop.

Second GCP21 strategic meeting in 2010, at the Rockefeller Center, Bellagio, Italy

Until 2013, actions have been limited to four categories:

  • Organization of strategic meetings to define a short list of cassava constraints and a short list of major technologies to be developed on cassava. The first strategic meeting was held in 2002, the second one in 2010, both at the Rockefeller Center of Bellagio, Italy (Fauquet & Tohme, 2004).
  • Publication of special journal issues on cassava: the first was published in Plant Molecular Biology in 2004 (Fauquet et al. 2004), the second in Tropical Plant Biology Journal in 2012 (Taylor et al. 2012).
  • Promoting the development of research projects such as the Cassava Genome Sequencing project, which was released in November 2009, followed by a number of other grants in cassava genomics to develop SNPs high density maps, extensive sequencing of cassava cultivars, genome-wide selection approach, and others.
  • Organization of scientific conferences gathering the R&D community at regular intervals. The first preparatory meeting was held in 2004 at CIAT in Cali, Colombia. The first scientific GCP21 Conference was held in Ghent, Belgium, in 2008; the second in Kampala, Uganda, in June 2012, and the third one was in Nanning, China, Jan 18-22, 2016. All of them were extremely successful and participants requested more.

All major crops or important topics have an organization promoting them, sharing results and looking for new developments. The interconnectivity of humans around the world is a hallmark of our times; the ability to share information, actions, and goals for a better efficiency is invaluable. This is even more important for cassava because of the scarcity of the investment so far dedicated to the crop, because of the small population working to improve it, and, most important, because it has the potential to better feed a greater number of the poorest people on earth.

Knowledge is power—especially when it is enriched from different sources and easily accessible to many people. Sharing information, coupled with collective action, can accomplish more than when anyone acts alone. At the click of a mouse, shared knowledge can create databases, organizational tools, and a network of cassava specialists that would otherwise not exist. As the cassava community grows and shares common information, the greater the impact and benefit of its decisions and its work. Thanks to the conferences organized in the past with GCP21, the number of participants has grown from 45 to more than 1000.

A global independent organization is also the only way to create a unified focus on the crop, free of special interest groups, to help ensure that the actions undertaken are the best and most important ones for all cassava stakeholders. It is also an effective way of addressing issues that smaller groups of people cannot address and attract the attention of policy makers and donors to invest in the crop more and more effectively—and for greater return on their investment. Ultimately, this is the single most important factor to increase cassava development.

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