afrol News, 5 October - Soon all information on bananas in Africa, including the banana growing areas, yield, socio-economic status of the farmers and spread of pests and diseases, will be available on a scientist-driven online dictionary.
The website (http://banana.mappr.info), developed by Philippe Rieffel a student of applied geography at the University of Münster, Germany, under supervision of scientists at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), hopes to make a wide range of reliable spatial information on banana readily available to researchers, policy makers and development workers.
According to Hein Bouwmeester, a Tanzania-based GIS specialist with IITA, currently the website is focusing on banana-growing areas in Africa but if successful, will expand to include the whole world. He said the website was developed entirely with open source software and uses "crowdsourcing" to build onto an existing geo-database.
"The idea behind 'crowdsourcing' is that currently there is no accurate geospatial data on bananas in Africa. So, the platform will 'outsource' these data from the 'crowd' of local experts in Africa," Mr Bouwmeester said.
"The core of the website is the editor that enables a user to view and edit banana growing areas and define their characteristics." According to Mr Bouwmeester, the website is important as it will allow information to be shared across projects and organisations for research and development work.
The platform comes in handy as scientists are grappling with the spread of two deadly diseases that are ravaging the crop and threatening the livelihoods of millions farmers. These are the Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW) and the viral Banana Bunchy Top Disease (BBTD).
One such scientist, IITA plant pathologist Fen Beed, lauded the initiative and encouraged researchers and development workers to share information on the platform to make it an information power house on banana.
"The more people with experience of local, national and regional banana production and its constraints contribute to the website, the more robust the data housed in this website will be," Dr Beed said.
"The data can be used as a baseline reference to monitor the impact of any interventions or changes in practice such as disease control strategies," according to IITA. "To guarantee accuracy and reliability, the site's creators will regularly check and correct the database," the insitute added.
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