The International Conference on Bananas is wrapping up today in Mombasa, Kenya. It is said to be the first pan-African meeting to link research to markets from an African perspective. Hundreds of participants, including scientists and farmers, discussed ways to improve banana research and marketing.
Dr. Stephan Abele is the director of research at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, one of the main sponsors of the conference. English to Africa reporter Kim Lewis asked him about its long-term goals. “We hope to bring together stakeholders in the African banana sector to develop strategies and a way forward to boost African banana production and to help small-scale farmers who trade by banana production in Africa.” He said participants represent a number of interests: “We have a large number of stakeholders in the conference. There are African farmers, representatives of farmer groups. We have non-governmental organizations from all over the world and Africa. We have researchers and scientists from various research institutes both from Africa and international.”
Dr. Abele also described the nutritional value of the banana. “Bananas are first and foremost a starchy staple,” he said. “What make them very attractive is that they have a relatively high yield on the ground per hectare or acre, so they produce a lot of starch. The banana has a lot of vitamins and a very high mineral value.” Dr. Abele added that the banana is also good for weaning children and for people suffering from disease.