Banana farming as a business: the role of tissue cultured planting materials in Kenya
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Objective: To assess banana farming and the potential impact of Banana Xanthomonas wilt (BXW) spread to key production areas in Central and Eastern provinces of Kenya. Methodology and results: After the outbreak of banana Xanthomonas wilt (BXW) in Western Kenya in late 2006, a rapid spot check on banana production was conducted in parts of Eastern and Central provinces of Kenya, aiming to assess the potential impact if the disease spread to the area. BXW was not observed in all the surveyed areas. However, potential risk of disease spread was noted since trucks and traders that visit western Kenya, where BXW is present, were also trading in bananas from Central and Eastern provinces. Banana was confirmed to be an important cash and food crop in the surveyed regions, particularly in Mwea and Meru regions, where a good bunch fetches a farm gate price of at least Ksh. 500 ($7.5). Despite the earlier adoption of the TC banana technology many farmers had reverted to obtaining suckers from their own or neighbours’ farms for planting. Conclusion and application of findings: It will be necessary to put in place measures to prevent BXW spread to banana producing areas within the eastern and central provinces as the disease would have a significantly adverse impact on livelihoods. The low uptake of tissue cultured planting materials needs to be investigated to forestall reversion to utilisation of low quality and potentially infected planting materials from existing plantations and other traditional sources. An overview of farmers’ perception of tissue culture bananas and possible interventions to ensure sustainable banana farming is discussed.