NEWS & EVENTS

BIOFORTIFICATION PROJECT

Background and rationale

Biofortification is the development of nutrient-rich crops using either conventional or modern biotechnology approaches. Biotechnology is preferred over conventional breeding because it is faster, avoids massive changes in crop attributes and is the only approach available for enhancing the nutritional quality of sterile commercial banana cultivars.

NARO in collaboration with partners have been developing pro-vitamin A enriched cooking bananas to alleviate the problem of vitamin A deficiency (VAD). More than 3 out of 10 Ugandan children below 5 years of age are afflicted VAD and associated health complications. Even a greater proportion of women of child-bearing age are affected.

An individual with serum retinol less than 0.7µmol/l is classified at vitamin A deficient. People suffering from VAD usually experience night blindness which eventually progresses into preventable permanent blindness, and those individuals are at higher risks of contracting many tropical infectious diseases due to poor immunity. VAD kills more people than HIV, malaria and tuberculosis combined.

Vitamin A is an essential micro nutrient which cannot be made by human or animal systems. It can only be obtained as supplements, or from fortified food and from natural foods in form of it’s intermediary, pro-vitamin A. Foods rich in pro-vitamin A include dark leafy vegetables, orange fleshed fruits, egg york, meat, liver and certain fishes. However due to economic, cultural and infrastructural difficulties, biofortification of staple crops has become a recent focus to reach undernourished populations in remote areas. Overreliance on banana as a staple food has been associated with high prevalence of VAD in Uganda.

Consequently, a phytoene synthase (MtPsy2a) gene isolated from a high pro-vitamin A-accumulating banana called Asupina was introduced into two Ugandan cooking bananas: Hybrid M9 and Nakitembe. More than 500 different banana lines containing the gene were assessed at a confined field trial (CFT) at Kawanda from 2014 to 2018. Based on yield performance, beta carotene equivalents (BCE) levels and molecular integrity, twelve elite lines were selected for final evaluation at different environments around the country.

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Partners and Donors

The National Banana Research Program (NBRP) has a number of partnerships that support different projects carried out by the program. Some of these partnerships are with the following organisations and institutions:

1. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

This is a nonprofit organisation which for the last 20 years has committed to fighting poverty, disease, and inequity around the world. The foundation has been funding a number of projects being run by the National Agricultural Research Organisation of Uganda (NARO).

In 2005, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funded the National Banana Research Program and Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities (now known as the Centre for Agriculture and the Bioeconomy) at Queensland University of Technology in Australia in a project to tackle micronutrient deficiencies In Uganda through increasing the levels of pro-vitamin A and iron in the fruit of the staple food of Uganda, the East African Highland banana. This project is called Banana21.

The Gates Foundation funds the Accelerating Breeding Better Bananas  project (BBB0, IITA and other partners) to improve the performance of the matooke breeding pipeline with better seed production, bigger numbers of products at various stages of development. 

The Banana Agronomy projects is also funded by the Gates Foundation with aim to improve scalable banana agronomy for small scale farmers in East Africa. The specific objects of the project are to reduce the yield gap and extension support gaps so as to boost banana productivity of small scale farmers in Uganda (western & central regions) and Tanzania.

2. International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)

For over 20 years, NARO has worked with IITA in joint breeding efforts and developed NARITA hybrids which high-yielding and disease-resistant hybrids. This collaboration was initiated in the 1990s.

The NARITA hybrids named after the joint name of NARO - International Institute of Tropical Agriculture are related to a group of cooking and juice bananas called East African highland bananas (EAHB). About 27 NARITAs have so far been developed in Uganda, at the National Agricultural Research Laboratories Kawanda and the IITA Sendusu research station.

NARO and IITA under the Breeding Better Bananas project, aim at streamlining the conventional breeding of banana in East Africa. This project brings together an international spectrum of partners to transform the national banana breeding programs in Uganda and Tanzania.

Under the Banana Agronomy project, IITA leads decision support development and scientist capacity building owing to its strong links to the global agronomy scientists and ICT networks.

3. Tanzania Agriculture Research Institute (TARI)

NARO with other partners have been working together with the Tanzania Agriculture Research Institute (TARI) in streamlining the conventional breeding of banana in Tanzania.

The Banana program through its Agronomy and breeding projects, have been aiming at increased banana productivity in project target sites in Tanzania and to further improve intensification of the banana cropping systems. The target sites in Tanzania are located in Izimbya, Lake zone-Tanzania. 

4. Bioversity International

NARO and Bioversity International work together on collaborative research under the biotechnology and agronomy projects.  Under the agronomy project, Bioversity International spearheads the monitoring of the project.

Bioversity International is a global research-for-development organization that delivers scientific evidence, management practices and policy options to use and safeguard agricultural biodiversity to attain global food and nutrition security, working with partners in low-income countries in different regions

In 2019, Bioversity International joined with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (as the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT) to deliver research-based solutions that harness agricultural biodiversity and sustainably transform food systems to improve people’s lives.

5. International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)

CIAT is a not-for-profit agricultural research organisation that focuses on scientific solutions to hunger in the tropics. They believe eco-efficient agriculture—developing sustainable methods of food production—is the best way to eradicate hunger and improve livelihoods in the region.  It  works in collaboration with hundreds of partners to help developing countries make farming more competitive, profitable, and resilient through smarter, more sustainable natural resource management.

NARO and CIAT work together on collaborative research under the biotechnology research. 

6. USAID

United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has for long worked in Uganda to reduce poverty, strengthen agriculture, improve education, and promote health. It currently funds the Feed the Future Uganda Agriculture Research Activity where the Banana Research Program participates.

The Feed the Future project is a research and development initiative that seeks to promote use and commercialization of improved crop and livestock technologies with yield and nutrition enhancing characteristics. The Activity directly supports Development Objectives 1 and 3 in USAID/Uganda’s Country Development Cooperation Strategy (CDCS) 2016-2021.

In order to achieve this objective, the activity focuses on the continued improvement of crop genetics, bio-fortification, integrated pest and disease management for eight commodities including Banana. During the first years of implementation, the Banana Program team has participated in conducting baseline and market studies; establishing strategic partnerships and systems for commercialization in Northern Uganda. Details Link. 

7. Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI)

CABI is a not-for-profit inter-governmental development and information organisation focusing primarily on agricultural and environmental issues in the developing world, and the creation, curation and dissemination of scientific knowledge.

The Banana Program has worked with CABI under the agronomy project to increasing banana productivity with private and public scaling partners and support farmers to bridge the yield gap to at least 25 metric tonnes per hectare per year.

The Agronomy project, CABI International leads the development of communication tools, with its long experience of working with scaling agencies in East African region. 

Others partners include:

   

National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO)

Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF)

Makerere University

 

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Press Release

Welcome to the Press Release repository. Access all the news and press releases that National Banana Research Programme has published and released to the public.

 

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NARO Banana Newsletter

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Address

National Banana Research Program
National Agricultural Research Laboratories
(NARL) - Kawanda P.O. Box 7065, Kampala
along Bombo – Gulu road.

Upcoming Events

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