National Agriculture Research Organization (NARO) under Feed the Future Project (FtF) has introduced improved banana varieties which are tolerant to pests and diseases in Northern Uganda to address food and income security problems in the region.
In the broader promotion of banana production in the Acholi and Lango, the project decided to introduce preferred cultivars after identifying the available banana market and market gaps to be exploited in the region. Banana consumption in Acholi and Lango is estimated to be worth Ush25.99billion per year. Most of this is outsourced from other regions and thus presenting a market potential for banana production within the region.
A NARO official counting the banana tissue culture plantlets before distributing them to selected host farmers across the four project sites in Gulu, Nwoya, Lira and Oyam.
Northern Uganda is a post conflict area with food security problems and has traditionally been known for growing of crops such as millet, sim sim, cassava etc. other than bananas. Therefore, the introduction of bananas, a perennial crop, was a way to address food and income insecurity.
Promotion of bananas in Northern Uganda by NARO started way back in 2012. Since then, bananas have been providing livelihood to different farmers. However, promotion efforts were enhanced to increase production in 2020, when the NARO Banana team under the Feed the future project management team conducted regional stakeholders’ consultative meetings on scaling out banana production and commercialization in the districts of Northern Uganda, specifically the Acholi and Lango regions. At the end of these meetings, it was evident that banana markets in Northern Uganda, Southern Sudan and Sudan present a very significant opportunity for the farmers in these regions to increase on banana production so as benefit from this venture.
It was realized that there is a big gap between the current market potential vs banana production status in the region which necessitates bridging up thus increasing banana production and commercialization in Northern Uganda.
Distribution of hybrid banana varieties suckers
At the beginning of July 2020, two elite hybrid varieties were distributed to the selected host farmers across the four project sites in Gulu, Nwoya, Lira and Oyam.
Dr. Priver Namanya, the Program Leader of the National Banana Research Programme says these farmers were selected after participatory meetings with consent of their fellow farmers.
“The banana hybrids distributed are FHAI 17 and M27. In total, 11,000 hybrid suckers were distributed to the selected host farmers; Gulu (88 host farmers), Nwoya (92 host farmers), Lira (81 host farmers) and Oyam (83 host farmers),” she added.
According to the NARO team, these host farmers are entirely responsible for the management of their plots with technical back stopping on banana management by the project team. The plots will act as mother gardens for sucker multiplication and dissemination to the new beneficiaries.
Ms. Jessica Namaganda, a NARO researcher explains that the suckers will further be disseminated following a clean planting material multiplication model.
“In this model, for every one sucker received, the initial host farmer will give two suckers. For example, for 40 suckers received, the initial host will give 80 suckers to another beneficiary farmer. The second beneficiary as well will pass on 160 suckers to the next beneficiary and so on. These host farmers were also given pvc pipes pegs that are durable and can be used for variety identification by the farmers,” she explains.
Moving forward, the different banana demonstration gardens established across parishes in the region (Lira, Gulu, Nwoya and Oyam), will act as learning sites to the surrounding farmers for better banana management in a bid to increase productivity on farm.
In order to initiate on-farm activities in Northern Uganda, about 100 demonstration sites were established in 2020 on farmers’ fields in Amach (Lira), Myene (Oyam), Paicho (Gulu) and Alero (Nwoya) sub counties under the Banana Feed the Future Project.
The sites are to demonstrate banana management practices prioritizing production constraints faced by farmers and show how they can be practically addressed on-farm in the project sites and also to initiate on-farm action plan on how to increase banana productivity and ultimately farmers’ incomes in the different project sites and dissemination to other famers.
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