CITEM: Getting Back to Our Roots - Philippine Root Crops Show Promise in Promoting Green Lifestyle

Pasay, Philippines, July 09, 2010 --( To "go home and plant kamote (sweetpotato)" in Filipino lingo depicts a picture of helplessness, and there are many negative, if humorous, connotations about the "lowly" kamote that in local minds make it pale beside loftier foreign greens. Yet the people from Visayas State University (VSU) in Baybay, Leyte, one of the leading agricultural universities in the Philippines, hold that there is much more to this and other indigenous root crops than what readily meet the eye.

According to Dr. Julieta Roa, head of the Philippine Rootcrop Research and Training Center (PhilRootcrops) based in VSU, the multiple health benefits and ready availability of root crops in our soil like gabi, potato, ube, and cassava are primary reasons to further elevate root crops into staple food status, as is already being done for kamote and cassava in places like Batanes and Zamboanga.

"In this era of climate change, root crops can adapt to a wide-ranging environment," said Roa. "We don't have to worry where to get the energy of nutrients - we get it from root crops [that can grow even in our backyards]."

Since 1977, Philrootcrops has generated and disseminated root crop technologies and information that have helped improve the livelihood of root crop growers, processors, and entrepreneurs nationwide. Among its diversified range of products developed from root crops include chips, starch, flour, and grates.

"Root crops are good sources of soluble dietary fiber that actively lowers cholesterol in the body and also prevents tumor formation in the colon," said Dr. Trinidad P. Trinidad, Scientist II of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI), in a symposium held at the university on the innate nutritional benefits of root crop consumption, primarily for the prevention of chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, and diabetes.

In 2002, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that chronic diseases accounted for 57% of all deaths in the Philippines. Moreover, the prevalence of obesity and being overweight, two of the leading causes of these diseases, is expected to increase in both men and women in the next 10 years.

Trinidad said that at least 80% of premature heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, as well as 40% of cancer could be prevented through a healthy diet that incorporates root crops, regular physical activity, and the avoidance of tobacco products.

"Kamote and cassava are both high in calcium, which is essential for bone growth and development," said Trinidad. "Gabi is high in iron, which helps increase body resistance to infection; and zinc, which is important for development and enzyme functions. Meanwhile, ube rates high in tannic acid, which has anti-bacterial, anti-enzymatic, and astringent properties."

Aiming to widen awareness on how root crops are nutritiously beneficial and could also lead to financial rewards in the alternative food business market, VSU is joining the first government-led environment trade platform which brings together the best of the country's eco-industries. Called the Philippine International Eco-Show (PINES), the event will feature the spirit of green advocacy and entrepreneurship in a three-fold exhibit of industrial, lifestyle, and advocacy zones. Likewise, it will stage an international conference on globally recognized green practices and emerging environmental issues and trends.

"[What we hope is to] embed in [people's] consciousness that a root crop is not [merely] a poor man's crop but a crop for health, wellness and wealth," said Dr. Jose L. Bacusmo, president of VSU.

Organized by the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM), an attached agency of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Philippine International Eco-Show will be held at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City this August. It is staged in cooperation with the Philippine Business for the Environment (PBE), the Philippine Green Building Council (PhilGBC), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Energy and Environment Project, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), the American Chamber of Commerce and Industry (AmCham), and the Haribon Foundation.

To learn more on root crops and VSU participation in the first Philippine International Eco-Show, log on to

Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions
Denise Melendres
(632) 831-2201 to 09