This unique project seeks to improve the production and productivity of banana in Tanzania and Uganda, through the development of hybrid banana varieties that are expected to have 30% higher yield compared to the current varieties grown by farmers under the same conditions. In particular, the project will strengthen the banana breeding programs in the two countries, towards developing new high-yielding hybrid banana varieties with resistance to key pests and diseases. The project is focused primarily on building an efficient breeding platform for banana and improving the two most popular cooking bananas in the region: East Africa highland banana (EAHB), also known as Matooke, and Mchare, fortifying resistance against pests and diseases but maintaining the traits enjoyed by consumers.

In close cooperation with National partners in Tanzania and Uganda, breeding activities are led by IITA but based at the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology (NM-AIST) in Arusha, Tanzania with close collaboration with Agriculture Research Institutes (ARI) in the banana growing areas, and at the Uganda Banana Breeding Programme of the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO), at Kawanda and Sendusu, Kampala. Numerous other institutes and banana breeding programs are involved with and linked to the project through various mechanisms.

The project aims:

  1. To dramatically upscale existing breeding activities;
  2. To build a breeding and selection pipeline;
  3. To improve data management;
  4. To increase the pace and efficiency of banana breeding.

To achieve its aims, the project has been structured around five strategic goals and one management goal, arranged as Work Packages:

  1. Banana Breeding Pipeline: Enhanced performance of banana breeding systems in East & Central Africa to deliver improved East African highland bananas with increased levels of pest and disease resistance, higher yields and better consumer acceptability;
  2. Pest and Disease Control: Enhanced host plant resistance to major pest and disease constraints through improved pathogen identification and accelerated early stage screening of resistance;
  3. Leveraging Genetics: Improved breeding efficiency through molecular-based genetic studies for increased understanding of underlying genetics and development of DNA marker-based early selection;
  4. Empowering End-User Evaluation: System for better tailoring breeding products and increasing adoption of new cultivars through end-user feedback systems and participatory evaluation of improved banana germplasm;
  5. Harnessing Data: Driving improved efficiency of breeding systems and enhanced synergy in national, regional and global partnership through an open-source database and tool box for banana breeders and researchers;
  6. Governance, Research Oversight and Management: Coordinating breeding efforts integration, capacity building, communication and dissemination undertakings and to ensure the long-term project impacts, through embedding breeding and research planning, and review in a users’ perspective forcing all in the research-for-development process into an adoption-orientated focus. Providing management and scientific guidance to the project are the Steering Committee link to the SC description and the Scientific Advisory Group link to the SAG description.