CABI, Kisii County Government and the Micro Enterprise Support Programme Trust (MESPT), has trained farmers on good sustainable agricultural practices to address challenges facing the banana sector which is a key cash crop for smallholder farmers.
The 10-day workshop, held at the Kisii Agriculture Training Centre (ATC) in partnership with the Kisii County Banana Production and Marketing Cooperative Society, was aimed at farmers, service providers, and the county’s agricultural officers across 45 wards.
Dr Naphis Bitange, CABI’s Postdoctoral Fellow Systems Agronomist, said banana is Kenya’s most important fruit crop, occupying 1.7 percent of the total arable land. In 2020, the country produced over 1.8 million metric tons of banana. As well as for export, banana is a staple food crop for both rural and urban populations in Kenya.
He added that CABI, through the global PlantwisePlus programme, seeks to increase food security and improve rural livelihoods by reducing the losses farmers incur due to plant health challenges like pests and diseases. This includes the banana weevil (Cosmopolites sordidus) and Fusarium wilt.
Enhancing farmers’ capacity in sustainable banana production
Dr Bitange said the training was necessary as it will enhance the farmers’ capacity on banana orchard management, the identification of pests and diseases affecting bananas and other value chains. It will also help identify possible sustainable remedies in addition to the KS 1758 horticulture industry code of practice that ensures safe production.
“The lead farmers will disseminate the information to all farmers at the grassroot and this will enlighten them on safe use and handling of pesticides as they tackle pests and diseases challenges. Besides, they will have an understanding on the application of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) principles on banana management and related value chains in reference to KS 1758,” said Dr Bitange.
He thanked the county government and MESPT for working hand in hand with CABI saying their joint efforts will go a long way in promoting the exchange of knowledge, information, best practices, and pest management.
This is in addition to knowledge shared on crop improvement, trade facilitation, and other relevant topics amongst the farmers and agricultural officers who are drawn from the different sub-counties within Kisii County.
Dr Bitange added that, to ensure sustainability, the service providers will be attached to the Kisii County Banana Co-operative Society, the sub-county agricultural officers and other recognized and established entities such as the Kisii County Agriculture Sector Steering Committee (CASSCOM).
Partnership will play a vital role in improving agricultural productivity
Mr Elijah Obwori, the Kisii County Executive Committee (CEC) member in charge of Agriculture, Fisheries, Livestock Development and Fisheries, said the CABI and MESPT partnership will play a vital role in improving agricultural productivity in the county.
Mr Obwori said, “I commend CABI and MESPT for capacity building our lead farmers and service providers who will serve as valuable resources within their communities, disseminating information on acceptable agricultural practices to other farmers with the support of already existing structures.”
Mr Obwori said that the implementation of the activities – through the service providers and lead farmers – was crucial in the dissemination of learning technologies and job creation for youths.
“The service providers and lead farmers present a good opportunity for establishment of ideal model farms within the county where good agricultural practices in orchard management can be embedded,” he added.
The CEC said the County Government, under the leadership of Governor Simba Arati, has advanced in agro-processing and value addition following the operationalization of a Banana Processing Plant with a capacity to process 20 metric tons per week.
“The training is aimed towards assisting farmers have more knowledge on modern ways of growing bananas besides improving and increasing banana production hectarage,” Mr Obwori said.
The area under banana crop production in the county is currently estimated at 6,350 hectares with an average production of 37 metric tons per hectare annually. This translates to a production of 238,125 metric tons every year.
The county is also the leading producer of cooking banana varieties in Kenya, which is the dominant variety produced, accounting for 75 percent of the total banana production.
Main image: Farmers, service providers, and the county’s agricultural officers across 45 wards took part in the training aimed at the sustainable production of banana in Kisii County, Kenya (Credit: CABI).
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