23 June 2011, Sullana
The first Latin American and Caribbean Congress on Bananas and Plantains in Sullana, Peru, focused on the contribution that researchers could make to mitigating the effects of climate change on banana and plantain production. Hosted by the Piura provincial government and small producers' associations and organised by MUSALAC (a continent-wide research network), Bioversity International and the Peruvian Institute for Agrarian Innovation, congress delegates from 20 countries were told that changing disease patterns and water management were two of the key issues.
For the province, the 4,500 hectares of organic banana now planted for export have come to be an important source of income and employment for this very poor and arid region over the last decade or so. However, the method of irrigation by flooding river water is wasteful and, as rainfall patterns become more unreliable, producers will have to find better water management techniques.
It has also been observed that phenomena like "blood disease" (Mancha Roja) have become more frequent and have started to affect productivity. Experts think that the spread of this disease may be linked to climate change.
The efforts of researchers to make their work relevant to producers was much appreciated by the emerging organic banana industry. Dr Andrew Jarvis, a scientist from the Colombia-based Tropical Agriculture Research centre (CIAT) who has recently published on climatic change and the threat to coffee production, summarised the challenge for farmers: "It is necessary to adopt measures and attitudes to minimise or avoid the negative impacts of climate change, notably through the creation of an ecologically efficient agriculture based on environmentally sustainable and equitable production systems."
Sources: INIA and local press, Piura, 23rd June.