World banana conference in Oct
Mombassa, September 25, 2008
In an attempt to promote banana as a cash crop, banana and plantain growers, scientists, entrepreneurs and policy makers from around the world will gather here next month for a conference to form guidelines in this direction.
Organisers said that the October 5 to 9 conference is expected to launch an ambitious and unprecedented 10-year effort aimed at transforming what is now largely a subsistence crop, into a major cash earner for millions of Africa's rural poor, according to a report in Commodity Online.
The conference, sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation, the Belgium Directorate General for Development and Cooperation and other public and private organisations, will concentrate on banana markets and trade, production and technical innovation, with the goal of producing a tangible 10-year strategy to realise the potential of this crucial crop to alleviate poverty and generate wealth.
'The Banana and Plantain in Africa Conference represents a first comprehensive attempt to create stronger global and local market links in the region for a crop valued at $1.7 billion in East Africa alone,' the statement said.
The five-day meeting has been organized by the International Institute for 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).
According to the statement from IITA, researchers will present results from a wide range of groundbreaking studies that point to numerous opportunities in fields, labs and markets for substantially boosting the production and earning power of a crop that currently feeds more than 100 million Africans but whose potential is yet to be tapped.
A blueprint for boosting incomes in marginal areas through improved banana processing will also be discussed. In Africa, diverse products are derived from the banana crop, including beer, wine, juice, sauce, mats, handbags, envelopes, postcards, flour, soap and breakfast cereals.
A recent report from an African agriculture research consortium found that Uganda's reliance on homegrown bananas for food and income was a key reason why during the recent global farm commodity crisis, the food price index rose only 10 per cent in Uganda, compared to the global average of 56 per cent.
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