Average productivity of bananas in small-scale production of 8 tons per hectare per year is very low, compared to large-scale plantations of 40 tons per hectare per year. The low productivity is mainly due to the adverse effects of pests and diseases, which are most severe for small-scale farmers, who do not have the economic or the technical capacity to manage such problems. Chemical control methods employed by large plantations are beyond the means of the majority of smallholder banana farmers and, moreover, the intensive use of pesticides is likely to have a detrimental effect on the environment and human health.
The Banana Improvement Project (BIP) was conceived to address this critical problem of the banana industry to develop improved varieties for commercial as well as for staple food production. Eighteen research institutions were involved in the BIP funded research and development work carried out from January 1994 to December 1998. The BIP was among the most important projects financed by the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC), both in terms of financial exposure as well as in terms of the scope and geographical spread of the work. It was also a unique project which was based on a collaborative effort of the CFC as financier, the World Bank as the Project Executing Agency (PEA) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as the initiator and supervisor of the project.
The project developed and evaluated a range of improved banana varieties which combine high productivity and export potential with improved disease resistance. Eighteen research sub-projects across the globe carried out strategic research. The project work also strengthened collaboration between conventional banana breeding and bio-technology research conducted by a research consortium in the framework of the project.
According to a terminal evaluation of the project conducted by three independent consultants, the BIP project provided a unique set of outputs in terms of both content and process. It has produced knowledge of a strategic nature as well as some technologies that have been and can be applied in the short-term. Based on conservative estimates, BIP has provided a rate of return on funds invested of at least 20%. A consolidated report was prepared for publication and wide dissemination as CFC Technical Paper No. 5.