Growing bananas with trees and livestock: Young farmer business groups improve crop and natural resource health and market links for rural well-being

Published on 22 June 2010

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Start Date: 15 July 2009 | End Date: 14 July 2012


Rural communities in the Lake Victoria basin from Western Kenya in a broad band following the lake shores through much of Uganda into north-western Tanzania have traditionally depended on their perennial banana gardens for food.They have selected a diversity of East African Highland banana cultivars as a food and beverage crop, adopted exotic cultivars for specific uses and have developed technologies for sustainable production using grass mulch, animal manure and careful management of mat density.

However, the banana system adapted to a slowly-changing, village-based economy is under stress.  Throughout the basin, farm size has declined, the area under annual cropping has increased, natural grazing lands have been converted to agriculture and production has become increasingly market-oriented.  The result is a decline in soil fertility, particularly for poor-resource households, and nutrient mining.  Pest problems have also increased, especially at lower altitudes. This is a serious challenge for future generations of rural households who face, in addition, increasing costs of fossil fuel, increased temperatures and more irregular rainfall due to climate change, on-going impacts of HIV-AIDS and outmigration of youth in search of more interesting career challenges.

The purpose of this grant, funded by the Austrian Development Association (ADA), is to improve food security, income and natural resource quality of resource-poor young households through banana agroforests, associated animal production and carbon accumulation adapted to changing climates and social conditions.  Austrian and Ugandan scientists and students in collaboration with Bioversity International have begun an action research partnership with field organizations and rural communities in three pilot sites in Central Uganda with the following outputs:

  • Methods piloted for strengthening young farmer groups organized for improved production and marketing of bananas, small ruminants and trees;
  • Prototype for banana agroforests linked to small ruminant production developed and validated by young farmers in collaboration with field technicians and scientists;
  • Biological interactions identified for designing and managing more efficient, resilient and resistant banana agroforests linked to small ruminant production
  • Experiences of banana agroforest prototypes reviewed, adapted and extrapolated by farmers, field technicians, scientists and policy-makers

Project stakeholders have ratified issues of common interest, identified scientists and begun to develop partnership approaches for working effectively with local farmer experimentation groups.This was achieved through an initial diagnostic field visit and an inaugural workshop with the participation of over 25 scientists, field technicians and research and development directors. The work has facilitated detailed activity planning for 2010 in all four outputs, which will include: a baseline characterization of household livelihood strategies; a participatory market study; the establishment of farmer experimentation and learning groups with their respective ruminant and fodder modules and banana mother gardens; field studies of soil microbiology and resource partitioning among bananas and trees; a follow-up training and planning workshop, and the design of a grant website.

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4 Responses to “Growing bananas with trees and livestock: Young farmer business groups improve crop and natural resource health and market links for rural well-being”

  1. Iam going into commercial agriculture as part of my retirement plan at Buloba 16 km from the city centre.Already planted 1.5 acres of lab.produced banana seedlings.1.What is the best sustainable crop to interplant with bananas without affecting them negatively to maximise on profits. Organic manure is not a problem as I have pigs,chicken, cows.
    2. Matoke,Gonja and Ndizi-which of them is more commercially viable,and in our conditions here which is easier to manage?
    3.Which trees would you recomend in a banana plantation?
    4.Can you arrange a visit to my small project and advise me?Im ready to become your partner for the benefi of the poor communities around me.My Tel.0772402915 and 0701050287.

    • Nakyeyune Cotilda says:

      Some of the recommended tree intercrops (from the experince of Vi agrorestry work in Masaka) for banana are Ficus natalensis (Mutuba), Albizzia chinensis (Mugavu omuzungu), and shrubs like sesbania sesban, calliandra calotyrsus. However, Both trees and shrubs should be well managed. e.g root prunning should be done for the trees, and since you have livestock, shrubs should be grown as hedges water trenches and trimmed at a height of 1m from the ground.

  2. Rick A says:

    Is it true that it takes 18 months for a banana to reach a grocery store from time it is harvested?

    • Charles S says:

      it takes approximately 18 months from planting the banana to the harvesting of the bunch of bananas. In Uganda the banana may take a couple days from harvest to urban markets


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