Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is a major global health issue, contributing to morbidity and mortality. East and Central Africa face VAD prevalence that exceeds the World Health Organization (WHO) threshold of 15%. In Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), VAD prevalence is greater than 43% in rural communities. Promoting vitamin A-rich foods (including banana) is an effective and sustainable strategy to address VAD in poor rural communities. Supported principally by HarvestPlus over more than a decade, banana researchers have been evaluating the performance of high provitaminA banana cultivars to address this challenge. This study evaluated the agronomic performance of six provitamin A-rich banana cultivars originally from outside Burundi and Eastern DRC. Growth and yield parameters were collected for the first, second and third crop cycles. Results revealed that growth and yield parameters were significantly affected by the interaction between sites and cultivars (P<0.05). Banana cultivar yield was also influenced by the combined effect of bunch weight and crop cycle duration. The most promising cultivars in terms of yield were ‘Apantu-AAB’, ‘Lahi-AAB’, ‘Lai- AA’, ‘Bira-AAB’ and ‘Pelipita-ABB’ across all sites and crop cycles. This indicates that although ecological factors could have influenced their performances over sites, genotype could be the most important influencing factor. These evaluations provide hard evidence of the high potential for adoption of the most promising cultivars by the local community members to boost (pro)vitamin A consumption and effectively eliminate VAD.
Keywords: Agronomic performance, Vitamin A rich banana, Crop cycle, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo.