Best bets for banana research: Priority Setting to increase development impact

Which problems should we solve first and which solutions should we focus on to ensure highest impact on food security, improved nutrition and income generation?
Organic bananas, Chira valley - Peru

Organic bananas, Chira valley – Peru

Organic bananas, Chira valley – Peru

(Blog cross-posted from ProMusa) All around the world, small-scale banana producers are faced with multiple constraints in crop production and marketing. The international community has been and keeps investing in banana research to help improve the life of farmers, benefit consumers and protect the environment, especially in developing countries. Since financial resources are limited, prioritizing is essential to ensure good investment decisions and maximize research benefits.

“Investing into research is a bit like placing a bet or selecting a stock for investment. We need to make sure we follow the best – and this means well-informed – bets when setting our priorities and investing funds. This is exactly what this study will help us with”, says Graham Thiele, the Director of the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers, and Bananas (RTB).

RTB is one of a new series of initiatives spearheaded by CGIAR – a global partnership that unites organizations engaged in research for a food secure future – to bring together research synergies and resources of multiple agricultural research-for-development centers.

Intercropping bananas with coconut trees

Intercropping bananas with coconut trees

Banana scientists and economists from Bioversity International (the operating name for IPGRI and INIBAP), the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) have teamed up to assess the impact of selected priority banana research options on welfare, poverty, food security, nutrition and health, gender equity and environmental sustainability. This study is part of a larger priority setting exercise that is carried out under the umbrella of RTB. Research priority setting studies will be conducted in parallel for cassava, banana, sweet potato, potato and yams using a harmonized approach and jointly developed methods and tools. The approach rests on the participation of a broad range of stakeholders which will be facilitated through the use of web-based electronic tools and communications through existing (regional) networks of banana partners and scientists.

When learning about these studies and their participatory approach Lawrence Kent – Senior Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – said: “This is fantastic! I am very excited about these studies and look forward to hearing the results. In order to better allocate research funding, we really need demand-driven approaches like this.”

Organic banana growerA participatory mapping approach will be used to identify target areas or “intervention hotspots” where high incidence of poverty and food insecurity coincides with high importance of banana production by small-scale producers. The top constraints – identified based on the scope and severity of the problem in target areas – will be matched with research options best suited to overcome the respective problem. The impact of these research options over the next 20 years will be assessed using a set of methods incl. econometric surplus modeling; the disability-adjusted life year (DALY) method to quantify health impacts; assessing the value of output gains and risk reduction; scoring for environmental and gender impacts; weighting factors for food security and poverty impacts.

The results of this strategic and participatory assessment of research priorities will help to better respond to specific needs of poor farmers and other vulnerable groups. Using the findings in guiding research investment decisions will increase the relevance of the RTB program and its impact, will raise the efficiency of research to achieve desired goals and will increase the relevance and adoption potential of technologies developed by RTB. It is further hoped that through the close linkages with national and regional stakeholders, those institutions will be able to benefit from the developed methodology, tools and results in helping to prioritize their own banana research.

If you want to learn more about the banana priority setting study or would like to engage in the stakeholder consultation, please visit www.promusa.org

A survey on major constraints to banana production and priorities for banana research is accessible on the Expert survey page.”