Steering Committee

Victor Manyong (Chair)

R4D Director | IITA-Eastern Africa
IITA, Tanzania


Victor Manyong is an Agricultural Economist at IITA. He is the Director for Eastern Africa and Leader of the social science research group at the institute. He also oversees IITA’s contribution to the CGIAR Research Programs on Policies, Institutions and Markets (CRP2) and Agriculture for Improving Nutrition and Health (CRP4).

Victor obtained his Ph.D. in Agricultural Economics from the Catholic University of Louvain-la-Neuve (UCL) in Belgium. He worked as a Research Fellow at the same university after his doctorate studies. Upon return to his country of origin, he worked for the private sector as a director of development programs. Then he spent two years working with an international German NGO. Thereafter, he joined IITA as a postdoctoral fellow before becoming a Director and member of the IITA R4D directorate. His professional background is research on adoption and impact studies, production and marketing economics, and policy studies.
He has published extensively in refereed journals, conference proceedings, and books. He has contributed to capacity building of many postgraduate students, some of whom have become scientists in international organizations or lecturers at various universities.

Rony Swennen

Project Coordinator | Banana Breeder
IITA, Arusha, Tanzania


Rony Swennen obtained his PhD at KU Leuven, Belgium in 1984. After a brief research stay in the Canary Islands, Spain, he joined IITA in 1979 as the first scientist at IITA’s High rainfall substation, Onne, Nigeria. There he started plantain research initially focusing on physiology in support of agronomy, and taxonomy. He became Associate Scientist (1982), Research Coordinator (1985), and in 1987 Core Scientist. He initiated and run the plantain breeding program that resulted in black sigatoka-resistant plantain hybrids for which IITA was awarded the International King Baudouin Award.
In 1990 he became Senior lecturer at KU Leuven University and by 1997 full professor. His group also developed the first transgenic bananas in the early 90s with field tests in two locations.
He joined IITA again as banana breeder in 2013.

Jerome Kubiriba

Work Package 1 Leader | Banana Breeder
NARO, Kampala, Uganda


A Senior Research Scientist, specialised in Plant Disease Epidemics control for improved livelihoods of the farming and consuming communities. With a background in plant pathology he has 22 years’ experience in generation of technologies and actively mobilizing banana value chain actors to utilise the technologies. He currently leads a vibrant team of scientists and technicians working on generation and promotion of technologies for increased production and utilization of the banana crop in Uganda and beyond. For the breeding project, he is charged with increasing Matooke and Mchare breeding pipeline performance by 15-20%

Altus Viljoen

Work Package 2 Leader | Professor
Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa

Altus Viljoen obtained a PhD degree in 1994 from the University of the Free State, South Africa. He was thereafter employed by the ARC-Grain Crops Institute, the University of Pretoria and Stellenbosch University, where he currently serves as chairperson of the Department of Plant Pathology. His research involves the protection of agricultural crops against Fusarium diseases; including the use of plant resistance, biological control and cultural control in an integrated disease management strategy. Aspects related to fungal genetics and genomics, epidemiology, and the isolation and identification of genes associated with resistance in plants are also addressed in his research on banana, maize and wheat. Viljoen coordinates an African consortium dealing with Foc TR4, a fungus threatening banana production globally. In 2014 Viljoen was selected a Chinese National Foreigner Expert. He currently also assists the FAO in establishing a Global Program on Foc TR4.

Brigitte Uwimana

Work Package 3 Leader | Banana Molecular Breeder
IITA, Kampala, Uganda

Brigitte Uwimana obtained her PhD degree from Wageningen University and Research Center (Netherlands) in 2011. She also recieved a MSc degree in Plant Sciences with a specialization in Plant Breeding and Genetic Resources in 2007 from the same university. She joined IITA as a Postdoc Banana Breeder in 2013. She was first based in Arusha, Tanzania. In 2015 she moved to IITA – Uganda and started working as a banana molecular breeder in 2016. She is now based at Namulonge/Sendusu (Uganda) where she oversees banana breeding activities of East African Highland Bananas, entailing the development of molecular tools.

Inge Van den Bergh

Work Package 4 Leader | Senior Scientist and ProMusa coordinator
Bioversity International, Leuven, Belgium

Inge is a Senior Scientist at Bioversity International, leading the “Banana Genetic Resources & Management Systems Science Domain”. She is developing and leading the organization’s research agenda in the area of banana germplasm evaluation and Participatory Varietal Selection (PVS) for adaptive, end-user-preferred traits. She is Bioversity’s focal point to the CGIAR Research program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) and coordinates the banana knowledge-sharing platform ProMusa ( Within the current project, Inge leads the work-package on the regional testing of new hybrids for East Africa. Inge holds a PhD in Applied Biological Sciences from the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium.

Lukas Mueller

Work Package 5 Leader
Boyce Thompson Institute, USA

Lukas Mueller studied Natural Sciences at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, and obtained a PhD from University of Lausanne in 1992. After postdoctoral studies at Stanford, he joined the TAIR database (, before directing the Solanaceae database SGN ( in Steve Tanksley’s lab at Cornell University. Since he joined the Boyce Thompson Institute (, breeding databases became another focus, with the creation of databases such as Cassavabase ( and the banana breeding database (

Jim Lorenzen (ex officio Member)

Program Coordinator | Senior Program Officer
Agricultural R & D group, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, USA

Jim Lorenzen, as Senior Program Officer in the Agricultural R&D group at the BMGF, has a primary focus on crop improvement of the clonal staple food crops, with some involvement in developing essential tools for seed systems and improved management practices. Prior to joining the Foundation, he was a potato researcher for over 20 years (Physiology, Germplasm Enhancement, Molecular Biology), then worked as a banana breeder for 6 years. In addition to faculty positions in the USA (NDSU, University of Idaho), he has worked in Bangladesh, Nepal, Thailand, Uganda, and Tanzania. He currently oversees grants on banana, cassava, sweet potato, and yam.

Danny Coyne (Secretary)

Project Manager | Soil Health Scientist
IITA, Nairobi, Kenya

Danny Coyne has worked in tropical agriculture since 1989, beginning as a village extension officer in rural Tanzania. He has spent most of his working life traversing Africa, working at both the national program and international research institute levels. He gained his PhD from University of Reading, UK, and MSc in Agricultural Research and Development from University of East Anglia, UK. He has in depth experience of working with a range of important tropical food crops, such as banana, cassava, yam, rice as well as various other crops and cropping systems. With specialization in plant nematology, he is one of few (yet increasing) nematologists in Africa. Of late he has broadened into the wider field of soil health in relation to plant host-pest-antagonist relations and the ecological aspects. Training underscores all of his work, whether at the farmer, technician, or academic level.