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    Bill, Melinda Gates Foundation to boost Uganda’s banana production research

    APA-Kampala (Uganda)

    The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has provided $5.7 million to fund a four-year banana research project in two East African countries of Uganda and Tanzania.

    The integrated crop management system is to run from 2016 to 2020 with the aim of scaling up banana productivity in East Africa.

    Integrated Crop Management System is a method of farming that balances the requirements of running a profitable business with environmental responsibility.

    It includes practices that avoid waste, enhance energy efficiency and minimise pollution.

    Dr. Arthur Tugume, from the department of Plant Sciences, Microbiology and Biotechnology at Makerere University, says once the project is successful, it will have reduced the banana yield gap through supporting productivity in the two countries.

    Studies indicate that over 100 million people in East and Central Africa (ECA) depend on banana for food and income.

    The production is largely by the efforts of smallholder farmers most of whom own less than 0.5 hectares of land.

    With the annual production worth 4.3 billion US dollars, banana contributes 5% of the entire ECA region's GDP.

    In Uganda alone, over 10 million tonnes of Matooke are produced annually, making Uganda the world's second largest banana producer after Cavendish in India.

    Despite the prime importance of banana in Uganda and ECA region, productivity has remained too low being unable to exceed 30% of the crop's production potential of 60-70 tonnes per hectare per year.

    Dr. Tugume, who is the principal investigator for the project, says closing this banana yield gap is crucial if the food self-sufficiency, income, and livelihoods of the region's smallholder banana farmers are to be sustained.

    This project is also tasked with generating and recommending a synergy that will catalyse a reduction in banana yield gap through influencing crop nutrient norms, dynamic crop growth models, a range of pest/disease and water management practices, and work in isolation.


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