28 November 2018 – CABI is working in partnership to share its expertise in creating, managing, curating and disseminating scientific information as part of a project to help boost banana production worth $4.3 billion to the economies in Uganda and Tanzania.

Development Communications experts at CABI are collaborating with organizations including the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) in Uganda and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Bioversity International, Makerere University and Tanzania’s Hort-Tenguru and Maruku Agricultural Research Institute to help improve banana agronomy practices for over 25,000 small-scale farmers in the highland banana cropping systems of East Africa. CABI is leading the project team in information packaging and dissemination through appropriate channels.

Bananas are both a staple food and economic backbone in East and Central Africa, where over 50 percent of the land is cultivated for banana crops. Despite more than half of all bananas grown in Africa originating from Uganda and Tanzania, banana production in these countries only achieves 9 percent of its potential yield due to pests and diseases and poor agronomic practices.*

As part of the NARO-led project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and also working alongside scientists at Makerere University, Uganda, and Wageningen University in the Netherlands, CABI has worked with project team in Uganda to develop a concise technology brief that highlights key topics and messages for farmers and extension workers including site selection, land preparation, appropriate spacing, mulching, improved varieties, water and soil conservation and pest and disease control management among others.

The CABI team provided hands-on capacity building to the project team to tailor communication materials into actionable advice that can be adapted for a range of different media including radio, drama and printed posters and extension training guide that will be rolled out in Uganda later this year and early next. Plans are underway to develop a similar strategy to benefit banana farmers and extension in Tanzania.

James Watiti, Coordinator Development Communications and Extension for CABI based in Nairobi, Kenya, said, ‘We believe that a crucial way to solve problems in agriculture and the environment is to put key information -in this case appropriate advice on banana agronomy practices – into the hands of the people who need it most.

‘This is a great opportunity for CABI to bring its expertise in development communications to support an actual scale-up effort for a crop that is central to Uganda and Tanzania’s agricultural and economic development agenda.’

Christine Alokit, Communication and Extension Scientist for CABI based in Uganda, added that CABI’s work to help the banana farmers grow more and lose less to pests and diseases is being supplemented by the help and advice provided by the CABI-led Plantwise programme which has developed a set of Pest Management Decision Guides for bananas as well as other priority crops.

Plantwise is a global programme led by CABI, which helps farmers lose less of what they grow to plant health problems. Working closely with national agricultural advisory services it establishes and supports sustainable networks of plant clinics, run by trained plant doctors, where farmers can find practical plant health advice.

In October 2014, CABI joined the $1.8 million Australia-Africa Plant Biosecurity Partnership with the aim of strengthening skills in plant biosecurity in Africa. This includes enhancing the capacity of middle managers and decision makers in countries – such as Uganda and Tanzania – to address, build and enhance national and regional biosecurity control capacity with the ultimate aim of accessing new global markets for staple crops including bananas.

Additional information

*In December 2017 CABI scientist warned that the effects of the fungus known as Panama disease tropical race 4 (TR4), together with the Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV) and the Banana Skipper butterfly (Erionota spp), could destroy $35 billion worth of banana crops across Asia, Africa and Latin America unless a concerted worldwide framework of prevention, detection and management is implemented.

Find out more about the Australia-Africa plant biosecurity partnership.

Relevant books

Banana Systems in the Humid Highlands of Sub-Saharan Africa: Enhancing Resilience and Productivity, Edited by G Blomme, Bioversity, Uganda, B Vanlauwe, Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility Programme, Nairobi, Kenya, P van Asten, IITA, Uganda, CABI, 2013.

Bananas and Plantains, By J Robinson, South Africa, V Galán Saúco, Instituto Canario de Investigaciones Agrarias, Tenerife, CABI, 2010.

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