Agriculture in Uganda and the world over is undergoing transition almost every passing day. From being predominantly subsistence, to a commercial sector alongside institutional change from centrally planned to a market- economy.
One of the true manifestations of the said commercialization of the agricultural sector in Uganda has been through Banana cropping.
In 2009, the President Yoweri Museveni launched a pilot project named the Presidential Initiative on Banana Industrial Development (PIBID) to help banana growers in embracing value addition.
The concern at the time was that an estimated 40 per cent of matooke harvested by growers in Uganda went to waste.
Rev. Prof. Florence Muranga, a nutritionist who taught at Makerere University’s Faculty of Food Science and Technology and also won the Presidential Scientific Innovation Excellence Award in 2005 was appointed as the Founder Director of the project 2005.
The main mission was to offer services, outreach and research and development opportunities to farmers focusing on sustainable banana productivity, as well as business and process development.
Prof. Muranga has since come up with a wide range of products under the name TOOKE. These include; Banana flour for making porridge, cakes, bread, biscuits, and cookies among others.
ChimpReports caught up with the PIBID team at the ongoing Agriculture exhibition in Jinja to explain the process of attaining a fine product right from planting, how the project has helped in value addition, the achievements and challenges thus far among others.
William Mwegombi, a farm irrigation engineer with the PIBID explains that just like any other field of work, farming needs organization and planning and therefore farmers too must follow the same path.
“Planning is essential; you need to know how much land you have and what you aim to get out of it. That is important,” he said.
Mwegombi says each banana stool should have at least three plants with a spacing of 3×3 metres. This helps in the proper growth of the banana plants.
Proper mulching, pruning and application of manure are recommended to enable growth and better yields.
With PIBID focused on promoting predominantly local breed, Mwegombi recommends various species of banana that farmers should embrace.
These include Mporogoma, Kisansa, Bwazilume, Entarasa, Muzira, Lumenyamagali, Rugaata and Kibuzi among others.
The period between planting and harvesting is estimated to be between nine to twelve months.
After harvesting, the bananas are dried to make the different novel products categorized under three generic Matooke flours including bread, cakes, Biscuits, Cookies, soups, porridges and starch.
Achievements of the PIBID so far with the mission to offer rural farmers services, technical and scientific knowledge, the PIBID has realized several achievements some of which include; Setting up a research station in Bushenyi District incorporating a technology business incubator for value addition.
Reaching out to farmers through structured cooperatives
So far, there are seven Farmer’s cooperatives that have benefited from the project. Some of the beneficiaries include Kigarama Farmers Union, Shuku Farmers’ Cooperative and Sheena District Farmers Union.
In addition there has been establishment of community processing associations (CPAs). Bulk Storage facilities in form of stores and silos to mitigate challenges of product waste.
There have been several sensitization programs and training sessions to create awareness among the farmers on the new dynamics needed to have a good product.
The presidential Initiative on Banana Industrial Development has also laid strategies in identifying market opportunities and creating entry strategies for value added products.
“PIBID is finalizing the certification process of the pilot plant and all products so as to satisfy both local and International markets. Inspire the challenges; the Project has also kick started exporting Tooke flours to Europe Asia and USA. In addition, efforts for availing the Tooke products to all Ugandans are underway and Tooke biscuits and instant Tooke porridges are now available in leading supermarkets,” Said PIBID Marketing coordinator Martin Ssali.
Despite the numerous achievements, there are still several challenges that the project faces. Salient among them include; climate change, obtaining finances for investment in agribusinesses among others.