Researchers from all over the world will gather together in Arusha to implement a five-year project on improving Banana Production and Productivity in Tanzania and Uganda.
The $13.8 million project is being launched to develop and distribute higher-yielding, disease-resistant hybrid banana varieties. The effort is being funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).
The four –day meeting will take place at the Nelson Mandela Africa institution of Science Technology (NM-AIST) in Arusha. The event will pull in researchers from Australia, Brazil, India, Malaysia, Tanzania, Uganda, Sweden, Belgium, South Africa and USA.
The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) project manager and soil specialist, Mr Danny Coyne, said the project aimed at strengthening banana breeding programmes in Uganda and Tanzania to dramatically upscale and speed up efforts of developing new high yielding and disease-resistant hybrid varieties. “It focuses on the two most popular cooking bananas is East Africa Highland banana also known as ‘matoke’ and ‘mchare’ grown in Tanzania, “He said
Uganda and Tanzania produce over 50% of all bananas grown in Africa. The region’s yearly banana crop is valued at $4.3 billion. However, banana production in Uganda and Tanzania achieves just 9% of its potential yield due to pests and diseases, posing a serious threat to the future sustainability of banana production in the region.
The new five-year project aims to dramatically upscale and speed up existing banana breeding efforts in the two countries. The researchers expect their hybrid banana varieties to have a 30% higher yield and a 50% higher resistance to at least three of the target pests and diseases compared to the current varieties grown by the farmers under the same on-farm conditions. The varieties will also meet over 90% of the quality traits for consumers found in the current cultivars, say the researchers.
IITA is one of the world’s leading research partners in finding solutions for hunger, malnutrition, and poverty. Its award-winning research for development (R4D) approach addresses the development needs of tropical countries. IITA works with partners to enhance crop quality and productivity, reduce producer and consumer risks, and generate wealth from agriculture. IITA is a non-profit organization founded in 1967 and governed by a Board of Trustees. IITA works on the following crops: cowpea, soybean, banana/plantain, yam, cassava, and maize. IITA is a member of CGIAR, a global agriculture research partnership for a food secure future.