The banana value chain is set to scale a notch higher as Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) has embarked on a series of training to help farmers increase the yields of this important crop.
The training of trainers (ToTs) project is targeting lead farmers, County extension staff and service providers from counties implementing Kenya Climate Smart Agricultural Productivity (KCSAP). This training started in September 2019. It was however slightly disrupted by COVID -19 pandemic. The program is ongoing. According to plans it is set to be completed by December this year.
The trainers are in turn expected to pass on the knowledge they have derived from the two-week program to farmers in their counties to help them boost their crop yields.
Speaking during the Banana value chain ToTs for Nyeri and Tharaka Nithi counties at KALRO Dairy Research Institute in Naivasha, Nakuru County last week, Dr. Felister Makini, Deputy Director-General KALRO (Crops Research), challenged banana farmers to farm bananas as agribusiness.
She noted that due to climate change, banana yields have for a long time stagnated at 10 tonnes per hectare. To improve the yields to upto 40 tonnes per hectare, she encouraged farmers to use clean planting materials, check soil fertility, control pest and diseases and reduce post-harvest losses such as bruising and rotting that mostly occur during transportation.
An innovation platform for disease management has been set up in Busia. This comes barely months after the notorious Xanthomonas wilt, better known as BXW, wiped a lot of banana orchards in Busia.
Dr. Makini highlighted that bananas are a rich source of vitamins, fiber and potassium and are low in fat. It is a crop that is well embraced can help farmers improve national food security for women, children, youth and vulnerable groups.
The crop can be farmed in wet areas as well as dry areas under irrigation.
This resilient crop has changed livelihoods by providing nutrition (food) and extra income that has been used by farmers to pay school fees for their children and cater for other bills.
Additionally, Dr. Makini advised banana farmers to join hands and form cooperatives so as to upscale their bargaining power in the market as well as attract financial institutions to boost their financial aid.
Other than eating bananas when ripe and cooking them, they can also be used to make wine, crisps and floor. This value addition can create avenues for employment for the general Kenyan populace.
The project sponsored by World Bank is expected to have multiple benefits on banana productivity in the country with beneficiaries estimated at about half a million households of smallholder farmers.
During the training, the trainers were taught in-depth via modules on climate-smart agricultural practices, farmer field and business school, soil fertility and management, banana production environment and climatic requirements, improved banana varieties, agricultural innovation platform, banana propagation, and good agronomic practices.
Other modules taught include integrated pest disease management, banana farming business and marketing, good agricultural practices in banana production, and post-harvest management and value addition.
The modules were taught and facilitated by KALRO’s finest crop experts that included Dr. Lusike Wasilwa, Dr. Violet Kirigwa, Dr. Antony Esilaba, Nasambu Okoko, Dr. Geoffrey Kamau, Dr. Japheth Wanyama, Mr. Samuel Maina, Dr. Ruth Amata, Mr. Anthony Nyaga, Dr. Francis Wayua among others.
Through extensive research, KALRO has developed varieties of banana crops that mature early, with high yields and are resistant to diseases.
Author; Dr. Paul R. N. Kangethe (BVM, UoN)
Email; [email protected]