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July 03, 2008

IITA receives sponsorship from Gates Foundation for Banana Conference in Kenya

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has announced a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to sponsor the Banana Conference 2008 (

The Pan-African conference, the first of its kind to link state-of-the-art research to new markets, aims to develop a 10-year research-for-development strategy that will stimulate trade and boost the growth of the banana industry across Africa. Banana researchers, major industry players and farmers’ groups will be participating in the conference.

Bananas are among the most important food and staple crops in Africa, providing food security, nutrition and livelihood for millions of smallholder farmers. In the Great Lakes area of East Africa alone, the crop is worth some US$ 1.7 billion annually to 14 million resource-poor farmers. The conference seeks to link research, production, and marketing needs to support banana production and trade growth in Africa. The role of research and the importance of public-private sector partnerships will also be highlighted.

The US$ 74,000 grant will be used to support the participation of Africa-based farmer groups, cooperatives and entrepreneurs at the conference, where they will have the opportunity to present their products and services at stands and booths. The conference will explore the breadth of the banana industry in Africa, including disease control, seed improvement, and the development of local and regional markets. Of particular interest are farmers’ groups and cooperatives that provide loans to support banana production and new markets, and entrepreneurs involved in innovative income-generating banana activities.

“The support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for this conference is a major indication of the importance with which this conference is being viewed for its benefit to Africa,” said Dr. Thomas Dubois, coordinator of the Banana Conference 2008. “The funding will make attendance possible for up to 50 small farmers and regional entrepreneurs, giving them a chance to showcase their products and services.”

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Agricultural Development initiative is working with a wide range of partners to provide millions of small farmers in the developing world with tools and opportunities to boost their productivity, increase their incomes, and build better lives for themselves and their families. The foundation invests in efforts across the agricultural value chain — from seeds and soil to farm management and market access. The foundation also supports data collection, research, and policy analysis.

“We are eager to support opportunities to listen to the small scale farmers we are trying to serve,” said Dr. Rajiv Shah, Director of Agricultural Development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “This conference presents an opportunity for small banana farmers and entrepreneurs to forge links that will support their ability to increase yields and incomes – a critical step so they can lead healthy and productive lives.”

The conference will be held from 5 to 9 October 2008 in the coastal city of Mombasa, Kenya. It will be opened by Anna Tibaijuka, Undersecretary-General of the United Nations and Director of UN-HABITAT, and by Karl Falkenberg, Deputy Director General for Trade of the European Commission.

The event is organized and coordinated by IITA in cooperation with Bioversity International, Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa, Kenya Agricultural Research Institute and the International Society for Horticultural Science; and supported by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications, the National Agricultural Research Organization of Uganda and Du Roi.


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