Disease-free banana tissues and sweet potato vines

A woman digging in the ground

RONHAI have introduced the use of new disease-free banana tissues and sweet potato vines by local farmers.

Introduction/Background

After India, Uganda is the second largest banana producer in the world. Ugandans eat as much as 1kg / 2lbs of bananas a day, making them one of the most important foods in Uganda. Bananas are not only a major food staple but also a major source of income for many farmers. Western Uganda is the leading region in banana cultivation, followed by the Central region where banana cultivation has the potential to be improved. In Buikwe district, this improvement can be reached from both a quantity and quality perspective. Most farmers in Buikwe grow traditional varieties, however improved varieties are available from different cultivators which are disease-free and produce much better yield.

Many farmers are skeptical about banana tissue cultivation as they fear genetic intervention and alteration of the plantlets which is actually not the case. In order to introduce disease-free banana varieties and improve their acceptance in the Buikwe district, a project was started in October 2014.

Objective

RONHAI helps farmers to improve their economic situation. The organisation is committed to promoting sustainable solutions to empower farmers in growing their income. The introduction of disease-free planting material will result in improving yield and thus increasing income of households in Buikwe. 

Approach

To demonstrate the difference between local banana varieties and improved banana tissues, RONHAI hired a piece of land to create a demonstration/mother garden on. 450 disease-free planting materials were purchased from AGT Laboratories, Buloba and with the help of local farmers they were planted in the mother garden. For comparison, local planting material was also bought and planted in the same field.

The varieties bought at AGT were 300 Mpologoma tissues and 150 Kisansa. Later on we again purchased 55 tissues of Mpologoma for replacement of dying tissues.

Once new banana suckers are growing they will be distributed to farmers of the community.

A similar approach was applied for sweet potato vines. In addition to the OFSP project RONHAI sourced additional vines from National Crops Resource Research Institute (NaCRRI) to place them in the mother garden for further distribution to farmers. Six different varieties were planted: Edjumula, NASPOT 8, 9, 10, 11 and 13.

Current status and further actions

The mother garden was cultivated and fertilizer applied. The field was fenced in order to avoid destruction by animals, especially during the first period of growth.

Funding was raised from private donors for the initial set up of the field with further fundraising and support of the whole community being necessary to secure an on-going operation.

In order to increase acceptance of banana tissue cultivation, training needs to be offered. Information sessions are to be held before distributing the first suckers to farmers.