An International Conference on Banana and Plantain in Africa: Harnessing International Partnerships to Increase Research Impact has been held in Mombasa, Kenya from 5 to 9 October, organized by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in partnership with Bioversity International, the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), the International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS) and the Kenyan Agricultural Research Institute (KARI).
The conference focused on three major themes: markets and trade, production, and innovation systems. On the last day day, participants discussed the outputs from the first three sessions, with the aim to come up with a 10-year, knowledge-based research-for-development strategy for banana in Africa.
For decades, African banana growers – along with those in the Caribbean and Pacific – have enjoyed tariff-free access to European markets but this is likely to change in the near future. The banana experts who met in Kenya advised that African growers have an opportunity to expand production and increase incomes by focusing on the under-exploited local and regional markets. More than 90% of Africa’s bananas are already consumed locally and regional demand is increasing, particularly in rapidly growing urban areas. African countries must look at adopting more liberalized policies that could increase cross-border trade. New marketing strategies and value addition through processing for products, like banana chips, beer, fried snacks, flour and fibre, should be explored. At the same time, however, efforts to increase incomes should not occur at the expense of food security, and thus the impacts of trade on food security should be taken into consideration.
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