TAHA: We need banana to be commercial crop

BETTER days for banana growers on the eastern slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro are bright following Tanzania Horticultural Association (TAHA) strategy of revamping the horticulture industry among small-scale farmers in the area.

To start with, TAHA has embarked on a journey of improving banana agronomy practices for over 500 small-scale growers in eight wards of Rombo District in the region.

As part of its grand plan to transform the crop from subsistence to commercial fruit, TAHA works with private and public partners such as Rombo District Council, agro input dealers, water supply authority and off-takers like Maua Mazuri and East African Fruits to help the farmers raise yields by providing appropriate knowledge and skills on good management practices.

Speaking on behalf of TAHA Chief Executive Officer, Dr Jacqueline Mkindi, the Chief Development Manager, Mr Anthony Chamanga yesterday in Rombo said Tanzania being one of the major banana producers with a 230,000 metric tonnes a year, has the great potential to be a breadbasket and guarantee food security, nutrition for consumers, create jobs and generate incomes.

“Banana is an essential crop for subsistence of farmers, and ensures year round security for food, but TAHA wants to transform the banana crop from being subsistence to commercial one in order to enhance income and sustain livelihoods” said Mr. Chamanga.

Making the revelation, he noted that other stakeholders were Minjingu Mines and Fertilizers, Agricultural Seeds Agency (ASA), NMB bank and processors.

Official data indicates that Tanzania alone produces 3.5 million tonnes of bananas annually.

However, pests and diseases, nutrient deficiencies and drought stress continue to affect the average productivity of the crop.

Courtesy of USAID and USDA funded Commercial Horticulture for Transformed Economy (CHOTE), TAHA with a wide range of skills and a strong linkage with a local, regional and international markets would unleash the potential not only of the banana crop, but also the whole horticulture value chains.

Gracing the training, which attracted over 500 farmers at Mamusera Ward, Rombo Member of Parliament, Prof Adolf Mkenda, commended  TAHA for playing a leading role in commercializing the crop through agronomy services and market access in its quest to improve small-scale farmers’ income.

Prof Mkenda, who doubles as the Minister for Education also urged key players, including financial institutions, seedlings suppliers, water authorities and off takers to join forces in a bid to commercialise the banana crop.

In the course, the exercise also saw the distribution of the 60,000 high-breed banana seedlings suitable for international export and domestic consumption.

Apart from offering good agricultural practices for banana growers, TAHA is also building capacity for District Extension Officers for them to be trainers of trainees (TOT) in order to replicate the best practices across the district.

Commenting on the training, East Africa Fruits official, Ms Firmina Joseph, said much as it seemed like banana were plenty, however, in reality the crop produced locally was meeting the market demand because of poor quality.

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