Tanzania Distilleries Limited board
chairman Arnold Kilewo clicks a
computer mouse during the
inauguration of the company's selling
point in Arusha.
By The Citizen Reporter
Growing coffee and banana plants together
can increase farmers' revenues by as
much as 50 per cent, researchers say.
They are encouraging coffee and
banana farmers in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi
and the Democratic Republic of Congo
to grow the two crops together,
an International Institute of Tropical
Agriculture (IITA) statement has noted.
In 2005, IITA and the Ugandan National
Agricultural Research Organisation
were requested to evaluate the success
of a Usaid-funded Agricultural
Their finding was that Ugandan farmers
got nearly 50 per cent more income
from growing coffee and bananas
together than growing either crop alone.
"The study showed that when farmers
intercropped banana plants with coffee
in their fields, the coffee yield remained
almost the same, with farmers gaining
additional income from bananas.
This is despite a slight reduction in
the number of coffee plants to make
room for bananas," Mr Piet van Asten,
a scientist with IITA based in Uganda,
said in the statement.
The research, conducted in 2006/07,
showed that in the arabica coffee-growing
region around Mt Elgon, annual returns
per hectare averaged $4,441 for coffee
and bananas grown together compared
with $1,728 and $2,364 for bananas
and coffee grown alone respectively.
In the robusta-growing areas in South
and Southwest Uganda, annual returns
per hectare averaged $1,827 for coffee
plus bananas while farmers earned $1,17
and $1,286 for solely growing bananas
and coffee respectively.
"These results were spectacular: coffee yields
did not decline when intercropped
with banana plants compared
with when grown alone.
Therefore, all revenue generated by
the banana was a bonus to
the farmers," Mr van Asten explained.
Intercropping of coffee is not
a common practice in the region,
with some countries even
discouraging it for fear it will
reduce coffee yields.
However, many farmers in Uganda,
especially in densely populated areas,
have practiced coffee
intercropping for many years.
Mr van Asten said the two crops
complemented each other.
Coffee plants love the shade,
which is provided by the much
taller bananas. Also, with this set-up,
intercropped coffee also seemed
than when grown alone.
"The increase in coffee yields is
most likely a result of the high
biomass turnover in the banana system,
resulting in more soil organic matter
and nutrients in a form more
easily available to the plants.
The increased canopy and self-mulch
reduce weed pressure and
the need to till. Tillage usually damages
both coffee and banana roots
which are normally shallow," he said.
According to him, bananas provide
farmers with food and a modest
but continuous cash flow
throughout the year.
Coffee gives a more substantial income
to farmers twice a year that can be
used to purchase additional
farm inputs and equipment,
improve shelter, and meet
family obligations such as
school fees for children.
Coffee is an important cash crop
for countries in the Great Lakes
where it is a major source of
foreign exchange revenue and
income earner for small holder farmers.
Bananas are important staple produced
all year round. Working under
an initiative called the Consortium
for Improving Agriculture-based
Livelihoods in Central Africa,
Mr van Asten and his colleague at
IITA are now urging farmers in
Rwanda, Burundi and DRC to
not only put bananas in their
coffee fields but to also put coffee
in their banana fields.
In Uganda, IITA and partner organisations
are exploring opportunities on how
to expand the benefits of this research
to the coffee farmers who still
Sent from Kigali, Rwanda