26 March 2019

Rwanda: Commercial Banana Farming Productivity Held Back By Farmers' Mindset

Residents of Musenyi Sector in Bugesera District are yet to embrace change and move from non-yielding indigenous breeds of banana (commonly known as Indaya), which authorities say is a mindset that is taking a little too long to change.

The indigenous breed is only good for extracting juice to make local brew.

For instance, in Rulindo Cell Musenyi Sector, the total size of land planted with the indigenous banana variety is two times the size of land with modern banana variety according to the cell Executive Secretary Damascene Niyonzima.

A farmer in a banana plantation in Nyanza District. File.

"There are 242 hectares still planted with indigenous banana variety (indaya) while the modernized bananas for commercial is planted on 134 hectares," said Niyonzima.

Speaking to residents on the yield from the two varieties, it is clear that the improved variety has a more output that than the indigenous one but residents are hesitant on adopting the new improved breed saying it requires lot of resources.

Celestin Hajabakiga is a resident of Rurama Village, Rulindo Cell while Martin Uwayezu is a resident of Karama Village Rulindo Cell.

The indigenous breed preffered by a majority of farmers is only good for extracting juice to make local brew. Kelly Rwamapera.

The former has 1.5 hectares of indigenous breeds but also with the new variety at a small piece of land for home consumption and the latter has 2.5 hectares for three varieties of improved banana.

Hajabakiga told Business Times that he earns about Rwf 100,000 a month from the indigenous breed while Uwayezu says he earns about Rwf 500,000 a month.

"I have Fia 17 for yellow bananas, Fia 25 for making juice and injagi for cooking for consumption. I send the edible bananas to Kigali and press the Fia 25 for juice. All of them earn me about Rwf 500000 a month.

Hajabakiga said that he makes more from the improved variety but admitted that they require more resources (such as fertilizers) in comparison to the indigenous breed.

"The new variety has high output but requires much more input," he said.

Uwayezu had the indigenous variety on 1.5 hectares. He started replacing them with the improved variety in 2016 gradually.

"I dedicated all the money I earned from the indigenous variety to planting improved variety which took less than two years beginning 2016," he said

By 2018 had started making profits the returns on the plantation which he used to buy two more hectares on which I planted more banana.

Today, Uwayezu is no longer expanding his farm but uses the income to invest in other businesses such as agricultural marketing and trade.

According to the Executive Secretary Musenyi Sector, Beltilda Mukantwari, local authorities are relentless in helping residents commercialise their banana farming but some residents are too slow to adapt.

"Some residents say the local variety is resistant to dry seasons but Bugesera has not had severe dry seasons for about a decade," Mukantwari said.

However, Mukantwari added that there is an improvement as some people are planting improved variety although at a slow pace.

"Before 2014, all residents couldn't care for the improved variety but now at least most households have at least a small portion of the improved variety planted" she commented.

She said that they are aiming to have the community adopt the new improved variety in the next two years.

Uwayezu said that the number of residents seeking to plant improved variety from him are increasing going by the demand for the input.

"When I started in 2016 there were no people willing to embrace the improved variety from me but now, I often run out of the suckers (seedlings) because many residents want to shift from Indaya to the improved variety of bananas," he said.

Banana crop is both a staple food for most of Rwanda but also exported especially for yellow bananas. The crop accounts for about 23 per cent of the entire farmland in the country.

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