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General News of Sunday, 24 February 2008

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Fast track propagation to boost Ghana banana and plantain production

Accra, Ghana - More than two million Musa seedlings - covering 1,300 hectares and worth $2.5 million annually to the farming economy of Ghana - were propagated and distributed to banana and plantain farmers here in a rapid two-year time-frame.

New Musa "micro-propagation" techniques, developed and tested across West Africa by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and national science organizations and research partners, are having a positive impact on farmers' incomes, enhanced food security, economic diversification and potential for food exports.

The boost to Ghanaian Musa producers - an estimated 4,000 local farmers - follows a four-year research program to assist smallholder farmers funded by the Gatsby Foundation of London UK. In addition to the direct farmer beneficiaries, nutritional and income gains are estimated by scientists to accrue to a further 70,000 people spread across 40 communities in the Brong-Ahafo region of Ghana's central Asutifi District, comprising extended families.

Plant distribution initiatives were spearheaded by Ghanaian organizations led by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research - Crop Research Institute (CSIR-CRI), the University of Ghana and Ministry of Food and Agriculture. Further technical input was provided by Bioversity International and private-sector assistance from Newmont Gold Ghana Limited (NGGL).

"This is an admirable example of scientific and market-development cooperation across several levels," said Dr. Abdou Tenkouano, IITA plant breeder based in Ghana.

According to FAO statistics, Ghanaian Musa production in 2005 (most recent figures) covered nearly 300,000 hectares, with production of 2.8 million tons, valued at $710 million. The largest share of Ghana's output comprises plantain (cooking banana).

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For further information:

Dr. Abdou Tenkouano

Plant Breeder

International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)

Accra, Ghana

A.Tenkouano@cgiar.org

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