5,000 small farmers in Rombo to reap from special banana project

The Tengeru-Arusha based Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) is implement- ing a special project in Rombo District geared at improving production and productivity of the country’s banana sector. 

Dubbed ‘Banana Agronomy Project’, the four year-initia- tive, under financial patron- age from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has so far reached out to at least 5,000 small- scale farmers in the district. 

Through the ambitious proj- ect, beneficiary farmers are trained to embrace best agro- nomic practices, including soil fertility, ways of conserving soil moisture and to mitigate com- mon banana pests and diseases. 

Other practices are creation of basins for harvesting water, banana weevils trapping and pairing of planting suckers. Through adoption of the agronomic practices, the farmers have impressively managed to uplift their productivity, from former 9kg to 15kg per one banana bunch to currently between 40kg to 60kg. 

Other partners in implement- ing the vital project include Bio- diversity International, International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Makerere University and Uganda- based National Agriculture Re- search Organization (NARO). 

Head of the Project, Juma Kitundu, Researcher, told the ‘Business Times’ in an inter- view that the initiative was focusing on improving scalable banana for small-scale farmers in highland banana cropping systems in East Africa. 

“The project targets to develop decision support tools to guide scaling partners in select context- specific, environmentally sound and self sustaining practices for improving banana productivity,” he informed.

Kitundu told the publication that the project was useful because despite several interventions so far done in researching and inventing improved banana seed varieties and distribute the seeds to farmers; production of banana in the country had, however, remained low for years.

“As per the 2017 research, production of banana in the country was at 9 tons per hectare in a year,” he said, adding that as part of positive outcomes of the project, production has currently increased to at least 19 tons per hectare in a year.