Phenotyping the banana biodiversity to identify climate smart varieties with optimal market potential in Africa and Europe

Project consortium and fund

Thematic and geographic area of the project:    

  • Plant sciences

Project’s summary/abstract:                    

Banana (Musa spp.) is the fourth most important crop in the Least Developed Countries, providing a staple food for more than 400 million people on the planet. It is an important source of income for many small and medium-scale producers that needs only limited inputs to ensure harvest. However, harvest yield is still far below its potential for many small holder farmers. In Africa, a high diversity of highland, plantain and dessert bananas is cultivated and the production is mainly aimed at local markets. In contrast, the banana production and import in Europe is limited to only a few varieties. Belgium hosts the world banana collection and has a long history of scientific research and partnerships with European and African scientists. The CLISMABAN (CLImate SMArt BANana) project aims to exploit the existing genetic resources and diversity of banana to select with input from all actors of the banana value chain (consumers, farmers, processors…) the varieties that will be resilient to the constraints that are threatening production because of climate change. To address the increasing demand for food, this project will investigate the potential of some microorganisms to be beneficial for the soil and the productivity of the banana plant. The project will combine top-notch phenotyping technologies to identify the varieties from the collection that fit the established “cahier des charges” and to test the potential benefits of microorganisms on growth of the banana plant. The laboratory obtained results will be brought to the field in different agro-ecological zones of Kenya, Uganda and Canary Islands for evaluation. Producers and researchers will be trained in different aspects of the banana research to market pipeline to stimulate a better utilization of scientific results in the development of agricultural systems that will meet both the increasing demand for food and the requirement for a sustainable use of land and water that can challenge the climatic evolutions.

Project’s main objective(s):                             

This project aims to improve the exploitation of the already existing and available genetic resources of banana, including newly developed elite hybrids and farmer’s favorite accessions. This work will be done by including all stakeholders of the banana value chain through consultation but also towards a more inclusive approach where stakeholders can follow the ongoing research that will bring the products of tomorrow. The selected banana varieties need to be resilient to water availability constraints that hamper production and have to address the qualitative and quantitative increasing demand for food. This project additionally aims to strengthen the partnerships between scientists, farmers and consumers and in general all stakeholders of the banana value chain. This will facilitate the different stages of product development towards a more effective and sustainable banana production. The information and products generated will respond to stakeholders’ demands and made suitable for field use, in two different agro-ecosystems and crop conditions representative of intensive and self-consumption conditions respectively, with a high impact on yields.

Theory of Change and Impact Pathway

Summary ToC with assumptions                        

This project aims to use a multi-stakeholder driven approach where stakeholders are involved in the research and selection of future banana varieties to improve resilience in the sector. The project will thus not only influence the outcome (rapid adoption of climate smart banana varieties) but will also positively influence future research initiatives as the cost efficiency and impact of this approach will be higher and thus welcomed by the society and reproduced for future research initiatives. Indeed, a stronger involvement of the civil society and a better interaction with the scientific world will have long term positive impact and resilience on the sector and can create new opportunities for developing the private sector along the research pipeline and the product value chain.

The implemented activities will lead to a better water use efficiency by irrigation and use of growth stimulating bacteria. This will increase the productive life span of banana stands and reduce production costs, and yields and income will increase and stabilize. Adoption of drought tolerant banana varieties will result in the expansion of banana production in the arid and semi-arid agro-ecological zones of Africa, ultimately leading to increased national and regional productivity.

Finally, the adoption of best practices for a sustainable agriculture will not only benefit the yields in banana production but will allow a better land and resource use which in turn will have a positive effect on agriculture in general and improve livelihoods.

Expected outcomes and impact:                          

Please mention the most expected outcomes of the project (e.g., the changes in behaviour, relationships, actions and activities of stakeholders as a result of the sharing and uptake of research.) and the contribution to impact the project aims at (change in economic, environmental or social conditions)

By associating multiple stakeholders from the initial steps, this project wants to bridge the gap between research and stakeholder preferences. This more inclusive research pipeline will have bigger potential to bring a successful product adoption on the market. We expect through this project to get a better buy-in from farmers to adopt best farming practices and thus better yields. By using a multi-stakeholder approach and comparative demonstration plots this project aims to show to rural communities the essence of using scientific research and development. By creating awareness through a concrete project on how science can improve livelihoods on the long term. Finally the banana varieties selected along this project for their resilience to climate change can potentially enlarge the banana growing area and thus allow new farmers to cultivate this major staple crop for East Africa.