TANZANIA – Tanzania’s Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology has received US$1.29 million from the Belgian government to aid the construction of a state of art banana research centre, reports IPP Media.

The research centre is aimed at providing technical expertise and information on modern farming practices as it seeks to boost production in the country.

Speaking at the institute, the Vice Chancellor Professor Emanuel Luoga said the centre will go a long way into helping farmers to increase their banana harvests hence improve their economic wellbeing.

“Through this second phase, farmers from the northern zone should expect some benefits from the project because we will engage ourselves into conducting in-depth research on banana farming,” he said.

Prof Luoga revealed that the construction comes as the second phase of a six year project following a successful evaluation of the results presented by the progress.

The coordinator for the project Prof Karoli Njau said the first phase of the project started in 2013 -2018 and was focusing on agriculture, environmental conservation and water.

According to Prof Njau, the first phase spent about US$1.5 million through conducting research in agriculture, environmental conservation and water and empowering further studies in Belgium.

He said that the research centre will enable development of modern high yielding banana cultivars which will benefit farmers in the country.

The funding will see the university construct a world-class research centre through which it will partner agricultural extension officers to aid dissemination of expertise on better farming practises to farmers.

He added that the institution was also sourcing funds from other organisation such as the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) to establish a company which will sell the research findings to countries of Uganda and Ethiopia.

Sylvain Vanrie, a representative for Belgian ambassador, hailed the cooperation and progress achieved by the project and pledged to continue supporting the project.

Last year, Tanzania opened a workshop conducted by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to review and plan a five-year project ‘Improvement of banana for smallholder farmers in the Great Lakes Region of Africa’.

The country has been making efforts as it repositions itself in the global banana sector which has been recording significant growth with export values hitting over US$12.4 billion.