The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has donated seven million dollars an equivalent of about 17 billion shillings to boost green banana production in Uganda.
The money has been channeled through the US Agricultural Biotechnology Research Project (ABSPII) in Cornell's Office of International Programs.
Frank Shotkoski, Cornell ABSPII director, said on Sunday that the project will assist in developing the resistance of the East African Highland banana, locally known as matoke, to pests like nematodes and major diseases like Black Sigatoka, fusarium and bacterial wilt.
Cornell and Ugandan scientists are working to reverse the drastic drop in production of matoke in the traditional banana growing areas of central and southwestern Uganda as a result of diseases and pests.
The Cornell-led ABSPII program has been working with Uganda's National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) to improve Uganda's ability to conduct agricultural biotechnology research and develop disease-resistant varieties of matoke.
Wilberforce Tushemereirwe, team leader, National Banana Research Programme was quoted saying that this project increases national capacity in plant breeding and builds on NARO's successful collaboration with USAID and Cornell.
Matoke is a primary staple crop for Uganda and a top priority for NARO. Along with improving varieties of rice and cassava, improving banana is central to food security and income generation in Uganda.
Bananas feed more than 65 percent of the population in Uganda and are a major source of cash for most farmers.
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