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Why extensive research and development did not promote use of peach palm fruit in Latin America

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Peach palm (Bactris gasipaes) was domesticated as a fruit crop by the first Amazonians in traditional Neotropical agroforestry systems, but research and development (R&D) to date has not transformed its fruit into a modern success story. The fruit is really a tree ‘potato,’ competing with traditional starches rather than with succulent fruits. R&D efforts have focused more on production than on product transformation, commercialization and the consumer, thus failing to fill gaps in the production-to-consumption chain. Consumer demands are only now getting more consideration, and clear identification of the smallholder farmer as the R&D client is not yet generalized. Too many, often large germplasm collections have biased R&D programs away from smallholder farmers and did not pursue the quality and uniformity that consumers want. The general lessons learnt from 25 years of R&D efforts on peach palm that should guide the development of other indigenous agroforestry fruit tree species are: 1) identify market demands, whether subsistence or market-oriented; 2) identify clients and consumers, and their perceptions of the product; 3) work on food and nutritional security aspects of the species and let entrepreneurs be attracted, rather than vice versa; 4) take up species improvement in a moderately sized effort, using a participatory approach tightly focused on clients' demands; and 5) reappraise the priorities from time to time.

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