Innovations in banana cropping systems in Tanzania

Some 80% of the Tanzanian population depends on agriculture for a living. In the North-West, near Lake Victoria, banana is the most important staple crop. The majority of production however is through subsistence farming rather than commercial production. By introducing new banana varieties and providing training on technical management as well as marketing skills, the Banana cropping project aimed to improve the livelihoods of banana farmers in the region. Now, after four years, the first results are visible: banana bunches are twice as big and farmers are selling the surplus to other regions in Tanzania and even abroad.

In Kagera Region, in the North-West of Tanzania, drought, pests and diseases lower the levels of production in the banana fields. Production levels are also affected by lack of resources, including fertilizer and restricted access to credit facilities, and by limited processing, entrepreneurial and marketing skills.

To improve livelihoods of banana farmers in the region, BTC's Banana cropping project adopted a push-and-pull strategy. To increase banana production, new banana varieties were introduced and 8,000 farmers were trained on technical skills, for instance to multiply banana suckers (the push-strategy).

At the same time, banana commercialization was enhanced by teaching farmers how to process banana into other products, such as flour, and by providing training on marketing and financial skills (the pull-strategy).

The combination of improved crops, improved technical management and improved marketing proved to be successful. The new varieties are more tolerant to diseases and they produce bigger banana bunches. Enormous bunches of banana are now sold in different parts of Tanzania and even abroad. Three times a week a boat fully loaded with bananas leaves the harbour of Bukoba, the capital of the region. Banana is no longer just a subsistence crop but has become a cash crop for the farmers of Kagera Region.

Quote of a banana farmer: "With the new banana varieties the bunches are so big that you need help to put them on your head. Some bunches even need to be carried by two people."

Facts & Figures

  • Four new varieties introduced (FHIA 17, FHIA 23, FHIA 25 and Yangambi Km 5)
  • More than 100 new banana nurseries established
  • More than 8,000 farmers trained on technical skills
  • 24 farmers groups trained on processing, marketing and financial skills
  • On average, traditional varieties give banana bunches of 30 to 80 kg, whereas new varieties give -bunches of 70 to 180 kg
  • In Ngara a bunch of 200 kg was harvested. The farmers would like to register this in the Guinness Book of Records