Kagera eyes spices production for increased income

KAGERA: KAGERA Region, which for a long time had been regarded as a land of bananas and coffee, is now focusing on spices production in efforts to increase people’s incomes.

Kagera Regional Administrative Secretary Mr Stephen Ndaki explained that the region’s climate is also ideal for growing a wide range of species, including cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, mint, vanilla, ginger, and turmeric.

“During a recent meeting it was unanimously decided to establish block farms whereby at least 5,000 hectares would be put aside. “About 4,000 hectares would be for coffee expansion while 1,000 hectares would be for bananas and spices production,” he said.

TCB will avail tractors to be used on the block farms and will also distribute at least five million improved coffee seedlings at the nurseries before being supplied to the farmers for the planting season.

According to Mr Ndaki, a team of selected farmers including chairmen from the eight councils-Muleba, Bukoba district council, Biharamulo, Ngara, Karagwe, Kyerwa, Missenyi and Bukoba Municipal Council, will soon conduct a study tour in Unguja and Pemba to learn more on spices production.

“We are optimistic that the study tour will have positive results. Zanzibar is the world’s biggest exporter of cloves and is reputed for producing other spices. “Apart from health benefits, spices production will also increase citizen’s incomes,” he said.

Banana is a staple food crop for about 2.9 million people in Kagera. The farmers also generate cash income from the sale of banana bunches and derived products (especially the local banana brew) within and outside the region.

Banana production has declined over the past decades due to pests, diseases and declining soil fertility.

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To offset this trend, the government in collaboration with other stakeholders initiated a propagation and diffusion of superior banana varieties high yielding and show different levels of tolerance to most of the banana pests and diseases.

It is estimated that over 95 per cent of the households in the region are involved in small-scale agriculture, with banana, beans and coffee cultivation being the main agricultural activities.

The production of bananas in the country hit a record of 3,407 metric tonnes in 2018/2019 season. There was minimal growth in comparison to the preceding season, when 3,396 metric tonnes of bananas were produced.

The global export value of the banana trade was estimated to be 8.9 billion US dollars before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, with a retail value standing between 20 billion US dollars and 25 billion US dollars annually.

And, at 8.9 billion US dollars, bananas grown for export are only a fraction of the 44.1 billion US dollars in annual banana and plantain production – in fact, bananas are the fourth-most valuable global crop after rice, wheat and milk.

Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)’s data shows that nearly ninetenths of the world’s bananas are eaten in poor countries, where at least 400 million people rely on them for 15 to 27 per cent of their daily calories.

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