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Story from the MyFoodStory website:
MY FOOD STORY ON BANANAS BY KAYIWA FRED MARCH 2007
CONTENTS 1. Overview of the crop 2. Production 3. Factors affecting production 4. Food supply demand and human value 5. Commercial part of the food 6. Technology thought for marketing and production
OVERVIEW OF THE CROP
Bananas commonly known as matooke have been grown all over Uganda but majority in central Uganda and some parts of western Uganda. It has been grown over the years by our forefathers.
Bananas (matooke) is a traditional food in central Uganda and it stands to be the major food here in that once one is served a meal and the meal is lacking banana then he/she feels like not taken a real meal.
Banana plantations are drought resistance and can be planted just after the rain starts and that is all, no need for irrigation and the plantation can move with all kinds of situation be it rain season or summer season as long as it has already been planted.
Bananas are planted between the end of February and the beginning of March because during this period rain is plentiful. Then they are planted again in October, November and December depending on how one has prepared his/her field.
Before planting of the crops, you first dig the pit 2 feet deep and wide and then leave a space of 6 feet from one pit to the other. This is done because the plantation produces a lot of other young ones so they don't need to be squeezed.
Then after you put manure of any type, it depends on what type of manure you have but normally here people use cow's or goat's manure and some ashes from coffee. This should be done one month before plantation process. Then in the growing process, the plantation is covered with grass to keep it of weeds and keep waste in the soil. The grown up banana leaves are cut off to give space for the young leaves to come up.
Bananas take 7-8 months to grow and produce matooke (food) which is normally a big bunch of it. And when it is ready to harvest, one bunch which comes from a single plant in a group of plants from one pit can be enough to a family of 10 people for both lunch and super.
When the banana is cut down, food is got off and the stem is used to be cut into pieces to cover the garden. The crop is peeled and cooked covered with banana leaves. This is done for the cooked food to give a good smell and taste.
Then the remains from the banana peels are used as food for the goats, cows and sheep's by the farmers who have them.
South and Southwestern Uganda: Masaka, Rakai, Bushenyi, Mbarara and Ntugamo districts produce a lot of bananas that can supply the rest of the country were they do not have enough bananas.
Bananas are bought mainly in Kampala, the capital city, where people are just in different businesses but they consume a lot of bananas and when you go to markets of Kampala and the nearby matooke markets there is plenty of them.
Though matooke is produced in large number, but it is still not enough for all people who think that matooke is the best food in Uganda. This is because it is now grown by farmers who have the capacity to buy manure and to use modern technology of farming like using digging tractors, buying new hybrid of bananas for their plantations.
But the rest of the families produce bananas for the home consumption not for commercial consumption.
A well managed plant can give more than 6 plants in one pit, then 2 are ploughed off leaving 4 in one pit and once one produces the food from these 4 and it is ready to harvest it and leaving the ones to grow so it is an ongoing process.
When I talked to one great matooke producer here in my home district (Masaka), Mr. Mugowa Samuel, he said that once the plantation is given lot of care and that's when manure is put in the right way and right time, you can produce bananas continuously (non-stop) irrespective of the seasons and Mr. Mugowa Samuel produces over 1200 bunches of bananas from his 6 acres land which means 200 bunches of bananas can be produced from 1 acre every few months.
However, new hybrid of bananas had proved to the community that it only takes 4-5 months to grow and produce food. This means that if all people can get access do the modern type of banana plantations and have them, there will be more development in the community due to the fact that they will be producing more products within short time and they won't produce for home consumption only but also for commercial purposes.
FACTORS AFFECTING PRODUCTION
Bananas are affected in many ways and the major problem is the poor infrastructure like impassable roads, so trucks cannot afford to go deeper and collect food to the market. Even those who risk going deeper in rural areas once rain start falling won't be able to come out hence bananas are getting ripe and start to decay.
Too much wind and rain in some parts of the western Uganda leave banana stems down and this is a problem because they get destroyed in maturity stage.
To much sunshine some times causes a problem to bananas were that crop fail if they are not yet ready to be harvested and they receive too much sunshine. The heat from the warming sun will make the banana crop and banana leaves turn yellowish which is a sign stalled growth and they get ripe though they are still young.
However, there are types of bananas here one is called matooke and this is what is eaten as food and another one is called menvu and this type is only eaten fresh and when ripe it turns yellow from its original green and then it is ready to be eaten. This kind is found in supermarkets and shops all over the world, it is of very sweet flavor.
Lack of skills in understanding the modern methods of growing bananas is a big problem to the local people because they don't have access to education, most of them are illiterate and the government has done nothing yet to promote the modern way of banana growing. It can help development of most of the rural people if it is modernized like bringing hybrids of plants which can grow in less than normal 7-8 months and widen the market for it.
SOLUTIONS TO SOME PROBLEMS
Government should come up with a programs for developing the local farmers because here most of the population, about 80% is living in rural areas and their main activity is agriculture and they are the poorest people in the country.
Constructing of good roads, to ease the transportation of food to urban areas. Also to create more markets to the crop as a way of promoting the produce of bananas.
COMMERCIAL PART OF THE FOOD
Banana market is regarded as for all seasons as portrayed by the local and modern farmers.
Bananas are grown primarily for subsistence and family consumption with a percentage grown over the years for the market (which is not big) so it has not been very profitable to the farmers.
Commercial sales throughout the year is always opening demands for the crop but this is a disappointment to the farmers because they grow few plants due to the various problems mentioned already and others have too small pieces of land. This is because land ownership in Uganda is a problem, it has been sold to rich people who have got big investments which benefits only their families and leaving the majority of population to suffering.
However, this situation seems to change with some NGOs coming deeper in contact with local people teaching them new methods of farming and growing the plant because some people may have land, it is old it can't give good produce any more. So the NGOs like NFPA educate the community on how to utilize the low fertility land.
With the construction of good roads in the local areas, people will get chance to transport their crops to the open market in urban areas and even have access to information markets.
Land if something is to bring close the information to people in all ways e.g. radios, TVs, local newspapers but in local languages banana will be more developed that's if it continues.
TECHNOLOGY FOR MARKETING BANANAS
Here high technology level is important because people need to market their produce even outside the country to the international markets were bananas are not found and this should be done when information is reaching the community.
Bananas vary in sizes and each size got its own price and this is normally in urban markets where a huge bunch buys around 10,000 - 25,000 (5.7 - 14.2 US $)
Sizes comes as a result of feeding the soil. Once the banana plantations are fed well with mixed manures and well done weeding, big size of banana bunches is expected to come out hence more money from the market.
Bananas are sold in each and every town in Uganda and for those who can't afford to buy in the market as they give sale to them in pieces and this is normally done by the bachelors who think that when they buy a huge bunch it can spoil before eaten.
TRANSPORTATION OF BANANAS
Bananas are transported with trucks, bikes and wheel barrows, which helps the transportation of bananas from the garden to the market. Otherwise information on how this crop can be modernized is highly needed in the rural communities. The internet and creating wireless connection for this area can increase crop production and the attachment like sauce e.g. beans, ground nuts, peace which normally accompany.
Editor:Kayiwa Fred This piece of work is from; 1. Kayiwa Fred Group leader 2. Mr. Mugowa Samuel farmer 3. Kakeeto Samuel 3. Shamim Naiga 4.Sheena Nakate
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