This report is the first of a series reporting on the Banana Improvement Project whose objectives are to: a) develop through research, improved banana varieties suitable for the international market; and b) improve pest and disease control practices to reduce pesticide use and its harmful environmental impact. The main research themes are: breeding and genetic resources, biotechnology, disease control, and nematode control. Chapter 1 is an edited review of banana and plantain improvement, based on a series of visits to banana research programs worldwide. It is focused on research planned and underway as well as possible innovations. The relevance of the programs to real work problems and opportunities was also assessed. The volume presents the proceeding of the First Annual Scientific Meeting of the BIP, held at the Katholeike Universiteit Leuven (KUL), Belgium, in February 1996. The portfolio of research projects commissioned by the BIP is described in Chapter 3 with a brief summary of research progress as reported at the first Scientific Meeting. A summary of discussions and recommendations from the KUL meeting is included as Chapter 4.