Tag Archives: BXW

CGIAR centres and research programs combine forces to reduce the damage of banana disease in Uganda

Bananas and plantains (Musa spp.) provide a major source of food and income for over 30 million people in Eastern and Central Africa (ECA). Uganda produces an estimated 10 million tonnes annually valued at about US$550 million. Most ECA bananas are domestically consumed with the highest global per capita consumption of over 200 kg. Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW), a bacterial disease, emerged in Uganda in 2001 and has since proved to have a devastating effect on banana production, with up to 100% loss if no management practices are adopted. To control the disease, farmers can adopt a package of practices, including single diseased stem removal and cleaning of tools to prevent contamination. Alternatively, resistant cultivars are under development. Several policy interventions are thus available but it is not clear which will have the greatest impact on curbing the spread of BXW while minimizing the costs.

Bioversity International, under the umbrella of the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB), organized a workshop in Kampala, Uganda, 1–2 February 2018, to understand better the socio-economic impact of BXW spread and quantify the role of policy interventions. The goals of the workshop were to:

  1. Finalize and validate the conceptual framework describing relationships between different elements of BXW spread and its socio-economic consequences, linking different scales – from farm to country levels
  2. Finalize and validate research questions of the study
  3. Identify what data, methods and models are available and what resources are needed to fill in the missing elements
  4. Generate a framework for linking the models 
  5. Formulate scenarios for simulation modeling, which would represent possible alternative future (until 2050) developments to inform policymakers
  6. Roadmap tasks and deliverables 

The research will answer the question: What will be the socio-economic impact of BXW spread in Uganda until 2050 if there are no policy interventions, and under different interventions?

A shrivelled male bud is a symptom of Xanthomonas wilt. Credit: Bioversity International/A. Vezina

This highly complex question requires an integrated modelling approach which can be modelled to see the impact of different interventions on banana production, producers’ revenue, market prices, consumption and nutrition, and link them to costs for different actors, starting from the government and ending with farmers. To address such different areas of focus and implications at multiple scales, from the farm to (inter)national level, the research brings together a highly multidisciplinary team hailing from different CGIAR research centres, different disciplines (agronomists, economists, plant pathologists, mathematicians), different CGIAR research programs, different flagships within the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas, together with representatives of Makerere University and the National Agricultural Research Organization of Uganda.

This innovative research links various models in order to understand the economic impact of pest and disease spread. We start with the dynamic global partial equilibrium model – IMPACT, developed by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) with support from the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM). This is an economic simulation model for analysis of long-term agricultural markets and food security. A crop disease mapping model based on statistical analysis of survey data will be combined with a mathematical model for disease spread dynamics, in order to inform the IMPACT model about the dynamics of BXW spread and its consequences for yield loss. Additionally, we will systematically assess costs borne by different actors in the food system. 

By combining expertise from RTB research clusters on resilient crops, banana bacterial wilt, improved livelihoods at scale, foresight and impact assessment, and sustainable intensification/ diversification, and linking those with the IMPACT model, we have the potential to make innovative breakthroughs that can truly make a difference in the management of the devastating BXW disease and defend Uganda’s economic base and food security. 

Read the original article and learn more about Banana Xanthomonas Wilt on the Bioversity International website. 

This research is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas and is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors. Additional support, for the IMPACT modelling part was provided by the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM) through the Global Futures and Strategic Foresight project.

Getting the big picture with results-based management and participatory planning

We all have a theory of change. Indeed, when we have a big goal to achieve, we think of what we should contribute to change, with who we may team up and which strategy we may use to make it happen. The CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) is making its theories of change explicit. The next step is to implement Results-Based Management (RBM) to foster the changes RTB’s interventions are supposed to make in the lives of smallholder farmers.

A growing number of research and development organizations around the world are adopting results-based management. As the website of Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development  indicates: “RBM is not a tool, but rather a way of working that looks beyond activities and outputs to focus on actual results; the outcomes of projects and programs.”

RBM is expected to become the modus operandi at CGIAR Research Centers, as it is embedded in the new CGIAR vision.  The management of RTB and its lead center, the International Potato Center (CIP), understand RBM as an integrated cycle to define, monitor and assess programmatic activities together with partners so the end users – the poor farmers who RTB works for – can achieve real benefits, and donors can see the ‘value for money.’

As part of its efforts to reorganize its research agenda, RTB launched a pilot phase in 2014 to introduce RBM across different work packages that are currently reshaping the program architecture. For each of these packages, impact pathways are being designed that allow for a better description of the interventions, a more comprehensive identification of relevant partners, and the implementation of a monitoring and evaluation system (M&E) along the different stages.

Impact Pathway

Simplified illustration of an impact pathway – It is usually not this linear, as the different actors (implementers, next users, beneficiaries) can play different roles along the impact pathway.

In the second half of 2014, RTB and partner researchers attended participatory planning workshops to design impact pathways together. The first issue of the new RTB Brief series presents the key experiences and lessons learned from the defining and co-designing of impact pathways for two selected clusters of activity: an initiative to strengthen Seed Potato Systems in Sub-Saharan Africa and an effort to improve Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW) Management in Eastern and Central Africa.

One exercise during the Potato Seed System workshop involved projecting oneself 10 years into the future and reflecting on the goals achieved, before going back to account for what had to be done in order to reach those outcomes. By looking at the big picture, participants were able to identify the specific stages, components and skills required to make progress on the pathway to their goals.

Panoramic view of the Potato Seed System in Africa impact pathway

Panoramic view during the Potato Seed System in Africa workshop

Some participants noted with satisfaction the similarity between the management system they were developing and the requirements of donors in terms of progress indicators and ‘value for money.’ “In the end, it’s all about clearly articulating the objectives, and analyzing and defining what we are going to do to achieve them,” said one potato breeder. “By re-articulating the way we operate and monitor, we are now about to align with what many partners and donors require, in a harmonized and structured way.”

While impact pathways and RBM were fairly new concepts for many participants in the BXW Management workshop, most of them appreciated the methodology and provided valuable inputs to improve the intervention logic by refining products and outcomes and identifying additional partners and scaling opportunities.

In the end, working together to construct impact pathways help everyone involved to get the big picture of what they want to achieve and to work out the details of how they need to work together to confront threats, overcome obstacles, and make a major, positive impact on the ground.

Read the RTB Brief “Co-constructing impact pathways with stakeholders for results-based management”

By Véronique Durroux-Malpartida

ILAC pilots transdisciplinary research on Banana Xanthomonas Wilt in DR Congo

The Institutional Learning and Change (ILAC) Initiative, in partnership with Bioversity International and with funds from the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), is working on a pilot transdisciplinary project in South Kivu, DR Congo aiming to control Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW), a disease that is devastating banana production in central and eastern Africa.

Transdisciplinary Research: A pilot project in Congo[1]

by Javier Ekboir, Cristina Sette, Boudy van Schagen and Guy Blomme

Why transdisciplinary research? How different is it from other types of research?

With the new and evolving trends in research and development, the CGIAR needs to better understand and define what research for development (R4D) actually means in terms of new research frameworks and practices. For example, what does it mean for a plant pathologist to do R4D? What he/she should do differently from his/her traditional practice? In recent years several organizations have asked similar questions in many areas of research, including health, agriculture and physics, and they all have converged on the idea that they have to foster greater interaction among different stakeholders of research. Such approach is known as transdisciplinary research.

The table below explains the differences between transdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, and interdisciplinary research.

Transdisciplinary Research Multidisciplinary Research Interdisciplinary Research
Collaboration in which exchanging information, altering discipline-specific approaches, sharing resources and integrating disciplines achieves a common scientific goal (Rosenberg 1992). Researchers from a variety of disciplines work together at some point during a project, but have separate questions, separate conclusions, and disseminate in different journals. Researchers interact with the goal of transferring knowledge from one discipline to another. Allows researchers to inform each other’s work and compare individual findings.

Source: Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer (TREC) Center at Washington University

Transdisciplinary research focuses on exploring different types of engagement, for example, when farmers are consulted and their needs and opinions are addressed, but they are not part of the research itself.

While the principles of transdisciplinary research are well known (see Frodeman, Thompson Klein and Mitcham 2012), it has been difficult to apply them in practice because transdisciplinary research is a complex process and as such requires adaptive management and strong learning capacities (Patton 2011).

The Institutional Learning and Change (ILAC) Initiative, with funds from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB), in partnership with Bioversity International, have initiated a pilot project in two villages of the South Kivu province, DR Congo, aiming to control Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW), a disease that is devastating banana production in central and eastern Africa.[2] In more detail, the project seeks to develop principles CGIAR can use to better conduct research for development, adapted to the particular features of each research project. The project’s technical and social goals are to

  • develop new recommendations for the control of BXW that take into account the needs, constraints and possibilities of different types of farmers and new approaches for the diffusion of the recommendations among farmers
  • explore whether a transdisciplinary approach leads to new agronomic, social and extension recommendations that accelerate uptake of research results
  • identify principles for the implementation of transdisciplinary research in the context of agricultural research for development

What difference is it already making on the BXW project in Congo?

After a few months of implementation, the transdisciplinary project was able to refocus the initial agronomic and social science research questions on the basis of information generated in non-controlled experiments and anecdotal information.

Initially, the main research question that guided the agronomic research was “how low and how fast the incidence of BXW could be driven down by using a new control strategy, i.e., Single Diseased Stem Removal (SDSR)?”

With the epidemiological information available at the moment, the research team concluded that BXW could not be eradicated; therefore, it was necessary to develop a control strategy. It was initially assumed that BXW could not be controlled by individual farmers because bacteria would be permanently reintroduced from neighboring infected plots; therefore, collective action to prevent reinfections was needed. The first social science research question was “what are the most appropriate collective action interventions to control BXW in a village?”

ILAC project on BXW in DR Congo

Singing and chanting to announce the meeting. Photo: Boudy Van Schagen

The project team then decided to try three parallel but linked collective action interventions: creation of self-help groups, coordination of influential local actors (e.g., priests, pastors, chiefs and NGOs), and collaboration with established farmer organizations. Soon the agronomic experiments conducted by the two projects mentioned in the footnote clearly indicated that when SDSR is used properly, the incidence of BXW can be reduced to less than 2% of plants in about two months irrespective of the initial incidence level. This low level of incidence suggested that it might be possible for farmers to control the disease individually. The core team then posed a new agronomic research question “can farmers control BXW in their farms with SDSR irrespective of what their neighbors do?”

This question is essential for the design of control strategies. If farmers can control BXW individually, no collective action is needed and the agronomic recommendations and control programs are simpler.

In addition, the transdisciplinary team explored a third research question: “Can the small self-help groups provide rapid feedback on new agronomic, social and organizational recommendations for the control of BXW?”

As the project progressed, the team observed that the self-help groups did not work as expected: they did not catalyze farmer experimentation but they helped researchers to identify issues that had not been considered in the initial design of the transdisciplinary project and to adjust the research activities. Additionally, since the farmers in the groups did not use the whole control package as recommended (see below), their actions were seen as uncontrolled experiments that tested the flexibility of the recommendations. As all farmers were able to reduce the incidence to 2% or less, it was concluded that the recommendations could be greatly simplified. Originally, the recommendations included (a) cutting diseased plants weekly; (b) cutting the male bud; (c) preventing livestock from wandering freely in the banana plots; and (d) to allow livestock preventing the children from cutting banana leaves. The new recommendations were included only cutting the diseased stems at least once a month and disinfecting the cutting tool afterwards.[3] The simplification of the recommendations is particularly important because practices (c) and (d) created important social tensions as it is customary and children to move freely among the bananas.

As a conclusion, the rapid adaptation of the research questions was possible because (a) at the beginning of the transdisciplinary work there was already a wealth of knowledge about BXW, including the basis of a control strategy; (b) the agronomy and social experiments implemented by the team yielded responses in a few months, not years; and (c) the research team was explicitly seeking to identify emerging issues; as has been identified in the specialized literature, serendipity happens only when researchers have multiple selection criteria, and are flexible and opportunistic (Nickles 2003).

While transdisciplinary research can accelerate the generation and diffusion of appropriate research outputs, it cannot be mechanically imposed on teams, as the difficulties of using on-farm research and participatory research have shown. A critical factor in the integration of the teams is the combination of a “generalist”, a researcher that can talk different “languages” (disciplinary research, development with the NGOs and “livelihoods” with farmers) and strong disciplinary researchers. A team with only generalists lacks depth of knowledge; a team with only disciplinary researchers has difficulties in building shared communication codes. In addition to the individual scientific approaches, the creation of transdisciplinary depends on institutional settings and incentives (National Research Council 2014).

ILAC pilot project on BXW in DR Congo

Group meeting in Bugohre, Kabare Territory, South Kivu. Photo: Boudy Van Schagen

Next steps

The next steps to be taken in the project are the exploration of three emerging issues:

  • Explore if redesigned self-help groups of farmers contribute to the dissemination of SDSR
  • Engaging influential actors, especially large NGOs, to help disseminate SDSR
  • Adapting the recommendations to different banana-based production systems; in particular, exploring how fast the incidence increases with less intensive controls

These recommendations are effective in high altitude areas where the insect population is small; additionally, in the research area there are few wandering animals. The recommendations will be tested in other areas with a different ecological and social environment.

[1] Adapted from: “Setting up a trans-disciplinary research team for the control of Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW) in South Kivu Province, DRC” by Javier Ekboir, Boudy van Schagen and Guy Blomme

[2] The recommendation to cut at least once a month resulted from the behavior of the disease in the farms of the self-help members. This is being validated in experimental plots and with other farmers.

[3] The project builds on two previous projects that studied options for control of BXW in experimental plots. These projects are Transforming CIALCA into a Humidtropics platform in East and Central Africa – CIALCA+, and FAO-Food Security Risks in the Great Lakes Region – Rapid response to the threat of banana diseases.

For more information, please contact Javier Ekboir at j.ekboir@cgiar.org