Bugiri farmers taste and welcome new NARO matooke varieties
On March 30th, the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) conducted an on-farm food tasting activity in Kavule village, Buwunga Subcounty in Bugiri District, where farmers tasted and ranked new matooke varieties which are yet to be released to the public. The activity attracted more than 70 participants including farmers, district officials, subcounty chiefs and agricultural officials.
The new cooking matooke varieties (hybrids) which are currently undergoing on-farm field evaluation were developed by NARO in collaboration with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).
These hybrids code-named NARITAs have resistance to pests and diseases and are tolerant to harsh climate conditions such as drought. They include NARITA 4, NARITA17, NARITA22, NARITA 18 and NARITA 24.
Dr. Priver Namanya, the Principal Research at NARO and team leader of the Banana Research Programme at NARL Kawanda, thanked the farmers for accepting to have these varieties tested in the region and encouraged them to embrace them.
“NARO’s coming to this region should help the community to take on banana farming and start earning big from bananas,” she said.
She also encouraged youths to form seed systems which would make it easy for the government to support them through those systems. She further mentioned that NARO will devise means to incorporate this programme into the Parish Development Model so that more farmers can benefit from it.
Ms. Juliet Amaculang, the Buwunga Sub County Chief appreciated NARO for creating this opportunity for farmers saying, “Your effort in training farmers is not in vain.” “Things used to end at research but we are glad that Government now goes to farmers to get their feedback,” she added.
According to Dr. Ivan Arinaitwe, the NARO breeder, matooke testing activity is part of the process of developing the hybrids. When they are developed, they undergo on-farm evaluation in different agroecological zones across the country, where farmers grow them, eat them and determine the best hybrid after cooking. This is based on attributes such as taste, colour, flavour and texture.
This activity also involved inspectors from the Ministry of Agriculture, who give permission to release the selected varieties to the farmers. Their findings will be reported to the Variety Release Committee which is in-charge of releasing the best hybrid to the public.
These matooke hybrids were planted in 2021 in five representative farms in Bugiri where farmers interacted with the improved hybrids and participated in the deciding the best for them to adopt. This was the first harvest of these varieties in the region.
Swennen Rony, Head of IITA's banana breeding program in East Africa, said the organisation has collaborated with NARO for more than 30 years in research on matooke. He thanked the farmers for accepting something new and encouraged them to spread the good news about the new varieties through the region.
He gave credit to the breeders in NARO and IITA who are continuing to do great work in the breeding industry.
Mr. Teefe Faisal, Chairman LCII Residence, Kavule village, who also dubbed as the host farmer, thanked the participants for attendance and expressed gratitude to NARO for providing such an opportunity and training farmers on good plantation management practices. “My family can now eat matooke at any time which was difficult before.”
Deziranta Kaziba, the councillor representing persons with disabilities, who is also one of the five host farmers in the district, called upon other persons with disabilities to interest themselves in banana growing and eliminate food insecurity in the region.