IITA hosts “Alliance” workshop on Banana Bunchy Top Disease (BBTD)

Consolidating the progress on Learning Alliance efforts to address the impact of the Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV) disease in Africa was the focus of a 6-day workshop organized by the “Alliance for Banana Bunchy Top Disease Control in Africa” at IITA, Ibadan, Nigeria.

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“The objectives of the workshop, held 23−29 May, were to strengthen the BBTD learning alliance for sub-Saharan Africa, finalize the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas-funded complementary grant, and prioritize and plan future courses of action,” said Lava Kumar, IITA-Virologist and co-organizer of the workshop.

Participants from 12 countries convened to share the progress made in eradicating BBTD in 2015 and identify the best practices for the 2016 work plan. The countries included Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Congo Republic, DR Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Malawi, and Nigeria.

Michael Abberton welcomed the participants on behalf of Robert Asiedu, IITA Director, Research for Development, for IITA-West Africa. He was joined by Sunday Akinyemi, NIHORT; Charles Onyeani of Nigerian Agriculture Quarantine Service; and Charles Staver, Biodiversity International. They highlighted the importance of the workshop and the task ahead of them all. “The problem is not smaller, we still have a lot of work ahead of us,” Staver stated.

Mainstreaming gender in BBTD intervention was central to discussions throughout the workshop. IITA gender research expert, Lillian Nkengla, emphasized the importance of inclusion to account for the complementary relationship between the roles performed by men, women, and children in banana production and their respective contributions in BBTD management.

Discussions also focused on the challenges faced during community mobilization in the eradication of the disease. Participants spoke on the problem of convincing farmers about BBTD and keeping them motivated. In his presentation on mobilization in Nigeria, Kumar, highlighted the role that better education and confidence building could play in improving the effectiveness in the community mobilization phase.

During the presentations, participants were given 6−8 minutes in speed talks to highlight their successes and challenges. Participants then broke into working groups to critically evaluate approaches and identify best practices and areas for further research.

To facilitate banana research, Staver unveiled the online banana mapper, a participatory map that helps researchers locate banana producing areas across Africa. A virtual map, it is visible and accessible to local experts who can contribute relevant data.

Also in this workshop, new diagnostic tools, LAMP (Loop-mediated isothermal amplification) and RPA (recombinase polymerase amplification) for BBTV detection in field conditions were demonstrated by the IITA Virology team members, Oresanya Adedamola and Adedeji Dapo. These methods can be used in the field for virus detection without any need for complicated procedures or equipment.

The workshop also witnessed the unveiling of a new Gates Foundationfunded initiative “BBTV mitigation: Community management in Nigeria and screening wild banana progenitors for resistance” led by The University of Queensland with IITA, NIHORT, NAQS, and Université d’Agriculture de Kétou (Benin) as partners.

Participants lauded the ALLIANCE’s efforts and expressed commitment to continue in 2017 and beyond.

The “ALLIANCE” is a multinational, multistakeholder, interdisciplinary team formed under the framework of the CGIAR Roots, Tubers and Banana (CRP-RTB) program, to mount a coordinated action to halt the expansion of banana bunchy top disease and recover banana production in the disease-affected areas, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

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