Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research ACIAR has launched a project to protect small-scale banana growers in Mozambique and Tanzania against Fusarium wilt tropical race 4 (TR4). The initiative will investigate banana farming systems, the cultivars grown and production practices in the two countries.

The project also seeks to work with country partners and landholders to identify practical bio-security measures to reduce risks and mitigate potential damage from the disease on small farms.

Professor Altus Viljoen, South Africa country project coordinator: “Fusarium wilt TR4 poses a significant threat to banana production in Africa. Within 4 years, a 1500 hectare Cavendish banana export plantation in northern Mozambique, where the disease was first found, was destroyed.”

“The fungus later spread to nearby commercial farms, a small grower’s field, and was found on Mayotte Island off the African east coast in 2020,” Viljoen said.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) 2017 estimates, 70-100 million people in East and Central Africa rely on bananas for their livelihoods. The crop is grown on around 2.5 million hectares in the region, making up 50% of total agricultural production in some countries, with an annual production value of US$4.3 billion.