Over 5,000 farmers in Rombo benefit from Banana agronomy project

23Jun 2020
The Guardian
Over 5,000 farmers in Rombo benefit from Banana agronomy project

​​​​​​​AT LEAST 5,000 small-scale banana farmers in Rombo District, Kilimanjaro Region have benefited from Banana Agronomy Project, a vital four years initiative which eyes to improve production and productivity of the favourable highlands cash crop.

Through the ambitious project, beneficiary farmers are trained to embrace best agronomic practices, including soil fertility, ways of conserving soil moisture and to mitigate common 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.

Under financial patronage from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the project is implemented by Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI- Tengeru) in collaboration with Bioversity International, International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Makerere University and Uganda-based National Agriculture Research Organisation (NARO).

Head of the Project, Juma Kitundu, Researcher, told The Guardian in an exclusive interview 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 tonnes per hectare in a year," he expressed, adding that as part of positive outcomes of the project, production has currently increased to at least 19 tonnes per hectare in a year.

For her part, Rombo District Commissioner (DC) Agnes Hokororo said the project has a helpful role in supplementing efforts by the government to revive and improve cultivation and productivity of banana, a key cash crop in the district and the county in a whole.

"For instance, before inception of the project, the district’s banana production per season (year) was at 159,500 tonnes, but currently production has catapulted to at least 239,500 tonnes," she detailed.

Moreover, she said through significant outcomes of the initiative there is significant increase in the number of freight trucks from diverse regions and neighbouring countries to purchase banana at different markets within the district.

Dr Stephen Sebastian, Manager for TARI- Tengeru sub Center in Arusha said the project has assisted farmers to improve their farming by using modern agronomic practices through uses of the same local seeds they have been growing for years.

Moreover, he added that the timely project however managed to fetch extra results by benefiting even farmers who were not in the beneficiary lists.