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DEVELOPING VIRUS INDEXING CAPACITY FOR BANANA PLANTING MATERIALS IN MALAWI

A FEASIBILITY STUDY ON DEVELOPING VIRUS INDEXING CAPACITY FOR BANANA PLANTING MATERIALS IN MALAWI (LILONGWE, SALIMA AND BLANTYRE, MALAWI) 9-13 DECEMBER 2013

A study using a Multi Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) to identify and prioritize key sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) capacity building options and needs for Malawi, was done in May 2012 and identified 16 capacity building options, one of which was virus indexing capacity for planting materials.

This option involves the development of capacity to test and certify live planting material in Malawi and although the banana crop was not listed in this initial study, the importance of banana in Malawi and the importance of healthy planting materials for banana could not be ignored.
PhytoSolutions was contracted to conduct a feasibility study based on a project preparation grant (PPG) entitled "Developing Virus Indexing Capacity for Planting Materials" approved by the STDF Working Group of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in March 2013. The PPG was requested by the Department of Agricultural Research Services (DARS) in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security in Malawi and supported by various government and private sector stakeholders. 
The objective of the PPG was to assess the feasibility of establishing the capacity for indexing and production of virus-free planting materials for bananas in Malawi and, depending on the findings and recommendations of this assessment, to develop a project proposal. The PPG was focused on developing export potential (i.e. production of clean planting materials for local use and export to regional markets, and support to develop banana pulp exports).
Agriculture is a crucial component of the Malawian economy and contributes over 80% of the country's foreign earnings.  The Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS II) focuses on the agricultural sector as a priority for export-led growth and trade diversification, to enhance food security and reduce poverty. Government is therefore promoting the intensification of horticultural crop production (including fruit pulps that are in high demand in regional and global markets) for export.
Bananas are an important crop for food security and household income in Malawi, and grown extensively by smallholders. However, production is negatively affected by the Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV), with serious consequences for livelihoods, food security and efforts to diversify exports. Effectively controlling this pest requires the use of pest-free planting materials, supported by strong complementary measures to avoid the presence of any source of infection. Access to clean planting materials is extremely limited in Malawi. While such materials are available from South Africa, the cost is prohibitive for small farmers, who account for most of agricultural production.
Virus indexing is an important part of disease surveillance and treatment since it helps to monitor quality of materials coming into and going out of a country, and provides comprehensive management information on various diseases.  The purpose of virus indexing is to prevent the distribution or establishment of infected planting materials through the identification of previously characterized viruses and the testing of planting materials to confirm the presence or absence of transmissible viruses or diseases.
Developing virus indexing capacity generally focuses on building capacity to produce, test and certify planting material. The basic requirements may include: (i) a functional laboratory including availability of relevant equipment (PCR machines and associated accessories and ELISA kit) and test reagents, and trained diagnostic staff; (ii) seed multiplication facilities and other associated facilities, such as screen houses, hardening sheds, etc. and trained staff to run these facilities); and (iii) robust virus indexing procedures. 
A two-day workshop was held in the Pacific Hotel in Lilongwe on 9-10 December 2013 on developing virus indexing capacity for banana planting materials in Malawi. Day 1 of the workshop was attended by stakeholders in the private sector, including producers, researchers, Ministry of Trade and Industry (MoIT), DARS officials and a member of Parliament. Day 2 was attended by the Malawi National Plant Protection Oragnization (NPPO) and MoIT and the Member of Parliament.

Front row: Hon L. Lowe, Dr. E. Jooste (PhytoSolutions/ ARC), D. Kamangira, M. Soko, Y. Nyaika, A.W. Phiri
Back row: I.B. Gokah, Dr. I. Benesi, M. Washoni, E. Chongwe, F. Washoni, S. Mng’omba, O.M. Chirwa

The workshop objectives included:
1. developing a banana pest profile for Malawi and determine the current situation on the spread of BBTV in Malawi
2. The determine the capacity in the private sector to contain BBTV in Malawi
3. The determine the commercial opportunities to produce disease-free planting materials for local and regional use.
3.1. Investigate private sector interest and potential for public and private partnerships
3.2. Assessment of existing or potential capacities of private sector (research and academia) and research within the NPPO e.g. location, infrastructure and HR
4. Determine the capacity of stakeholders to meet regulatory requirements for exporting banana planting materials into the region
5. Investigate synergies to other ongoing/planned efforts in the region to address problems related to the use and spread of infected planting materials and the potential of local and exporting markets for banana.
The initial stage of the study concluded that it is necessary to strengthen the capacity of clean planting materials locally to ensure that the demand for banana can be met without the interference of effects of viral diseases. To strengthen this capacity, further needs were identified to 1) establish a virus indexing center that can test for all banana viruses with established protocols and to 2) establish a tissue culture facility to produce healthy material.
The workshop was followed with visits to existing facilities and sites and facilities with potential to be considered for further development to create and enhance the virus indexing and tissue culture production capacities.

  1. Hortnet
  2. Mangoes Malawi
  3. Chitedze Research Station
  4. Bunda College
  5. Bvumbwe Research Station

 

The farm Hortnet of the Washoni brothers is located near Lilongwe  Here you can see (A) brothers in blue shirts; (B) banana plantations; (C,F) current shade net facility; (D E) structure for growing suckers


The banana plantations of Mangoes Malawi.  The farm is located in the Salima district (A,D); pulping factory (C); shade net facility where planting material is kept (B); and bananas ready for consumption (E).

Facilities at Chitedze Research Station (A); the current biotechnology lab (B); the new facilities (C,D) and green house in progress (E).

Tissue culture facilities at Bunda College (A); banana tissue culture (B); potato tissue culture (C); green house facility where propagated banana plants can be hosted (D, E)


Tissue culture facilities at Bvumbwe Research Station (A, B); the quarantine facility (C); the green houses that need renovations (D); the potential virus indexing lab (E, F).

More information and the results of the feasibility study that led to the development of a subsequent project as approved by the STDF can be found at http://www.standardsfacility.org/PPG-404

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