How Kenya’s banana farmers can meet high demand for commodity
The potential of cooking banana (matoke) production has not been fully exploited except in parts of Nyanza where it is an important staple food.
Kenya has over 400,000 smallholder banana farmers with 1.7 percent of Kenya’s total arable land planted covered by bananas but most of them are used to growing the dessert ripening banana leaving a big gap for cooking and plantain varieties.
Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organization (KALRO) is currently improving the production of cooking banana and plantain through identification of banana and plantain varieties that can be introduced in different agro-ecological zones of Kenya especially the coast region
According to KALRO Director General Dr. Eliud Kireger, there’s need to increase the genetic diversity of cooking banana and plantain in different regions in order to meet the requirements of the consumers and enhance producers’ income.
The move will meet increased demand for cooking banana and plantain in urban areas and at the same time ensure national food and nutrition security, and increased incomes for farmers.
“We have as KALRO been undertaking research by evaluating at least five banana and plantain varieties that validates appropriate pest management strategies and utilization before the technology is cascaded to the farmers,” said Kireger while in Mtwapa during a field day visit on the banana project.
Kenya has around 71,000 hectares of bananas which contribute to Ksh.25 billion annual income in a production of 1.5 metric tonnes of the product, according to KALRO.
A Ksh.13.5 million three-year banana project done in partnership with the National Research Fund (NRF) and the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), will see over 700 farmers being trained in the technologies to ensure they are economically empowered and the country is food secure.
KALRO will now be able to disseminate banana and plantain technologies and avail clean planting materials to at least 1000 farmers and stakeholders in each target County.
Banana has been ranked first among all the fruits grown in Kenya, however, the potential of cooking banana production has not been fully exploited in the country except in parts of Nyanza where it is an important staple food.
In 2019, the area under banana production was 71,102 Ha with a total production of 1.51 million tons valued at Ksh.24.62 billion.