Banana (Musa spp) is a major crop in Africa, and serves both as a food crop as well as a cash crop. It’s a staple food for over 25 million people in Eastern and Central Africa (ECA) sub region. The crop is largely grown on smallholdings ranging from 0.5–3.0 acres. Until recently, weevils, nematodes and black sigatoka were the key constraints in banana production. Farmers were able to utilize genetic variability in the Musa spp gene-pool to manage these constraints and harvest at least what was enough for their families and remain with a small surplus for sale. This situation has dramatically changed since the arrival of Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (Xanthomonas campestris pv musacearum) that causes 80-100% yield loss. All cultivated bananas have succumbed to the disease and communities are now threatened by hunger and starvation. In response to the disease threat, several control measures for BXW (such as destruction and disposal of infected plants, disinfecting tools, removal of male buds, keeping away browsing animals, use of quarantine and use of clean planting materials from clean fields) have been developed and disseminated in the region. However, one of the challenges that farmers face is inability to reliably use quality clean planting materials which have been identified as key to the fight against the disease. Planting material is known as the main transmission route for the disease. The macro propagation technology therefore provides an option of multiplying clean banana planting material as a means of enhancing farmers’ access to clean seed and to germ-plasm.
The banana macro-propagation technology involves the use of clean corms that are 5-6 months, which are uprooted, and the sheaths removed up to the meristem. The corm is then dried to remove any liquids or sap and then boiled in water to ill any bacteria that may cause infection of the young seedlings. The corms are then steam sterilized in a bag for 2 hours and then dried for 24 hours before they are planted in the macro-propagation unit. The unit consists of a wooden ash base where the corm is planted and covered with a polythene sheet to maintain the humidity to required levels. From each corm, 4-5 plantlets can be obtained which are cut off, and the meristem killed. The plantlets are replanted to produce other seedlings. The principle is that when the meristem or primary plant is killed, it encourages sprouting of secondary plants. From each corm, up to 30 plants can be obtained.
The macro-propagation technology is currently being used by small-scale farmers in two benchmark sites in the Kagera region where the ASARECA supported BXW project is being implemented and coordinated by Bioversity International. The BXW project demonstrated the technology in benchmark sites and constructed seven macro-propagation units in each of the sites. Farmers within the community used the banana planting material generated using this technology to either establish new farms or replant in areas devastated by BXW. The dissemination approach used to promote the technology was use of demonstrations as training sites for farmers from within and around the community. There was limited dissemination of the technology since it was only being demonstrated on-farm. This technology therefore needs to be scaled up-and scaled out- for the benefit of smallholder farmers in the region. The FFS approach and benchmark site demonstrations can be used to effectively disseminate this technology.
For successful promotion and adoption of this technology farmers need to be sensitized about banana farming as a commercial enterprise. Farmers require further sensitization about BXW and its management especially avoiding transmission of the disease through planting materials. There is need for cooperation between the policy makers, NGOs, field extension workers, and local leaders in the promotion of the technology.
The social, environmental, policy and market conditions are necessary to catalyse cross-border scaling-up of the macro-propagation technology. These were noted to include:
- The farmers within the region should understand the need to use clean seed as a method of preventing BXW disease transmission.
- Cross-border policy frameworks to facilitate access to planting material generated through use of macro-propagation techniques should be in place.
- Banana production should be considered as business and not for subsistence.
- Farmers should be able to buy the planting materials generated by macro-propagation for sustainability.
Farmers, either individually or as groups should be linked to markets of banana and banana clean planting materials.
The technology was demonstrated at two benchmark sites in the Kagera region in Tanzania. Over 20,000 suckers were distributed to farmers and the demand for the planting material was on the increase. There are still several farms in and around the bench mark sites which were devastated by BXW and needed replanting and there also farmers who would wish to establish new farms. Farmers beyond the sites in Tanzania and in the region also require a community based method of assessing clean planting material. Training of farmers and extensionists in methods of accessing banana planting material was one of the activities implemented. Intensive training was however limited to farmers in and around demonstration sites in Tanzania. The farmers from these sites can use/operate and maintain the technology. Farmers from
Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Dr Congo and Uganda got the training but did not have hands on experience.
According to farmers, from the Bukoba region in Tanzania, a macro-propagation unit can be constructed using about US$ 1000. It was reported that about 2000 plantlets can be harvested annually. Each plantlet was estimated to cost US$ 0.35 and the enterprise can break even in two seasons.
Women constitute a large part of labour force that is involved in banana production in the ECA. This technology is intended to provide planting material for disadvantaged women and men in the banana farming communities. The scaling-up approaches used such as FFS had equal representation of both men and women.
During the dissemination of the technology, both women and men played an important role in effecting control measures on their fields and mobilizing communities for BXW control. Women and children were assigned the specific duty of monitoring for infected plants and reporting them to relevant authorities for removal.
Since 2009, Bioversity International and ARDI Maruku have been promoting more innovative ways of increasing farmers’ access to clean banana suckers. According to Dr. William Tinzaara, a scientist at Bioversity “when we tell farmers to cut down their infected mats, we must have a strategy to ensure that they get access to clean materials for replanting and promote banana seedlings production as a business”. Mr. Edwin Sarapion is a progressive farmer in Ruhunga Ward and is one of the 20 farmers who participated in the training offered at ARDI in clean banana seed production. “I was among the group of farmers trained on three techniques namely the conventional method, macropropagation and decapitation”. After the training, and the een interest showed by Edwin in the seed multiplication business, he was supported by ARDI to construct a macropropagation unit. He provided the land and labour while ARDI provided the construction materials valued at Tshs 1,600,00 (Approximately US$ 1000) and technical expertise. Of the 7 macropropagation units that have been built in the ward, Edwin is a proud owner of one of units.
The technology requires limited space. Farmers should be able to buy the planting materials generated by macro-propagation for sustainability. Farmers, either individually or as groups should be linked to markets of planting material and of banana.
Contact details for further information
Scientist, National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO)
P O Box 7084,
Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Margaret Atieno Onyango
Scientist, KARI - Kisii Centre,
P O Box 523 - 40200,
Tel +254 202112913,
Mob: +254 738428110 / +254 712344721
Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Espoir Bisimwa Basengere
Universite Catholique De Bukavu/RDC
Faculte Des Sciences Agronomiques
Laboratoire de Phytopathologie
Via BP: 02 Cyangugu Rwanda
Tél: +243997701265/ +243853710509
Sceintist, Bioversity International
P.O Box 24384, Kampala, Uganda
James Wanjohi Muthomi
Scientist, University of Nairobi (UON),
P.O Box 29053, Nairobi, Kenya.
Scientist, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)
P.O Box 7878, Kampala, Uganda
Currently, there is no policy framework that regulates and promotes use of clean planting material for vegetatively propagated crops. Future activities should provide policy briefs that can guide policy makers in formulating regulations about the technology for disseminating the clean seed. Participatory forums to share information on the performance of the macro-propagation technology transferred between target groups and technical persons are currently lacking at local levels. The Banana research network for east and southern Africa (BARNESA) organises biannual meetings attended by regional representatives from research, farmers/farmer groups, NGOs and policy makers. Matters regarding research and development are discussed during the meetings.