Farmers in Central Kenya depended on coffee for their income until prices plummeted, causing the poverty rate to rise. That was until a research firm introduced a high yielding, fast maturing banana called ‘Tissue Culture Banana’ which has helped to eliminate poverty in the region. The Kenya Agricultural Research institute (KARI) began partnering with NGO, Africa Harvest, on the project in 2006.
Florence Wambugu, Ph.D., CEO of Africa Harvest, speaking to PR Newswire, explains tissue culture propagation as “the process of growing tissue culture for plant shoot-tips in a laboratory until they are ready for transplant into the field.”
“Because of the highly controlled starter environment, tissue culture propagation significantly reduces disease and dramatically improves yield when coupled with good agronomic practices,” she says.
In addition, Africa Harvest uses a strategic whole value chain approach with tissue culture banana technology, which includes: awareness creation and information outreach, access to tissue culture banana seedlings, agronomic best practices, post-harvest banana fruit handling best practices and linkage to competitive markets.
Wambugu further explains that bananas were chosen for the tissue culture project because of the crop’s ability to provide income for farmers, with small pieces of land, over a prolonged period of time — usually about 10 years.
The story of farmer Justus Kimani is an inspiring one. According to SABC, he started growing the crop in 2009. What started as an experiment is now the family’s main income earner and Justus Kimani is a happy man. Perhaps the best part is that the trading centres have completely eliminated the need for middlemen who many see as exploitative.
Research shows that the average hectare yield for tissue culture bananas is 30 – 40 tons annually, earning more than $10, 000. This is almost twice the yield from normal breeds.
The backbone of most of Africa’s economies is agriculture and nearly 70% of Africa’s rural population rely on it for economic sustainability.