Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has announced that his government has Shs8billion to a team of scientists led by Dr Florence Isabirye Muranga at Makerere University to install a factory in Mbarara in central Uganda to turn bananas into flour.
Dr Muranga of Makerere University’s Department of Food Science and Technology and her team recently completed breakthrough research on the processing of bananas, a staple foodstuff in Uganda’s central region, into flour, which it has used to make bread, cakes, biscuits and chapatis.
The research was funded by a grant from the Presidential Initiative on Banana Industrial Development (PIBI) pilot project to increase the number of products made out of bananas.
Bananas are the most important staple food crop for more than 12 million Ugandans and are grown on about 1.5 million hectares of land, about 38% of total arable land in the country.
In the past, bananas were a highly sustainable crop in Uganda, with long plantation life and stable yields, and in some areas gardens of 50-100 years still exist. However, the frequency of replanting in central Uganda is currently as short as 3-5 years.
The decline in banana yields has resulted in a change in the banana production patterns. There has been a spatial shift from the traditional banana growing areas of central and eastern Uganda to the southwest, as well as a shift from banana cultivation to other crops, such as cassava, sweet potato and maize.
Reversing the decline and bringing back sustainability of banana production is a big challenge for Uganda, which in 1989 created a National Banana Research Program (UNBRP) with four aims:
1. Developing banana genotypes with resistance to weevils, black Sigatoka and nematodes.
2. Evaluating improved local and foreign germplasm under different ecological conditions and bulking farmer acceptable cultivars for dissemination.
3. Developing biological and cultural control options for management of weevils and nematodes.
4. Accelerating transfer of improved banana technologies to farmers and other stakeholders through on-farm research.
The Daily Monitor
Uganda National Banana Research Programme