Research in the Philippines published in the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction examines how root crops – particularly sweet potato and cassava – helped vulnerable households cope with the destruction and recovery of Super Typhoon Mangkhut, which devastated the island of Luzon in September 2018.
Scientists conducted a survey of 423 households in the Cordillera Administrative Region, a mountainous region in northern Luzon that was badly affected by Mangkhut, and where sweet potato, cassava and taro roots are widely grown. They found that while the wind and rain from the typhoon damaged most rice, banana and maize crops in the region, root and tuber crops fared much better with only 8% and 15% damage. Yield loss in affected sweet potato and cassava plots, respectively, compared to about 50% for maize and rice and 77% for banana.
Survey respondents said they ate more sweet potatoes and cassava than they normally would, and about 50-60% said they planted sweet potatoes and cassava after the storm.
Since many sweet potato varieties are ready to harvest within 90-100 days of planting, the harvest has been used to help farmers recover from extreme weather events across the tropics, such as cyclone Idai in Mozambique in 2019.
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