Building Better Bananas — By Bill Gates on The Gates Note com regarding initiatives and research on this crop which is essential diet for Uganda and other African country’s population

Banana Consumption in Uganda
Bananas are the primary staple crop in Uganda with per capita consumption approaching 250kg per person/year. An average Ugandan consumes about five times his or her weight in bananas each year. The staple banana varietals in Uganda are low in essential multi-nutrients, particularly pro-vitamin A and iron. As a result, Ugandan populations dependent on a banana based diet have a high level of both vitamin A deficiency and iron deficiency anemia.

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This is important because the diets of millions of people in Africa are deficient in both of these vital nutrients. While rare in the developed world, Vitamin A deficiency in developing countries causes hundreds of thousands of children to go blind each year. It also reduces the body’s ability to fight infection, which raises the fatality rates in poor countries from infectious diseases like measles. Iron deficiency is so serious and widespread that in Uganda, for example, more than 40 percent of young children have stunted growth and 73 percent are anemic.

Meanwhile, bananas are a primary staple of people’s diet in Uganda and many other African nations. (Our foundation also has supported research to enhance the micronutrient content of cassava, rice and sorghum, all staples for millions of the world’s poorest people.) An average Ugandan consumes about five times his or her weight in bananas each year. Fortunately, Ugandans have more varieties of banana to choose from than we usually do in the developed world. Some varieties are eaten raw, while others are cooked as part of a dish with other ingredients. The kind that are cooked are sometimes called plantains, but they’re all bananas. For dessert there’s the sweet Sukali Ndizi, which children especially love.

Unfortunately, the banana varieties grown in Uganda are low in essential micronutrients, particularly Vitamin A and Iron. To increase these levels, Dale and his team in Australia are collaborating closely with Ugandan scientists at that country’s National Agricultural Research Organization.  The NARO team, led by Dr. Wilberforce Tushemereirwe, has made important contributions – developing research protocols, conducting field trials, and planning distribution of new, more nutritious banana varieties to Ugandan farmers. The NARO team’s involvement is a great example of young African scientists playing a major role as full partners in using state-of-the-art science for development of new products important to agriculture and health in their own country.

Read full article on The Gates Note com

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