UGANDA – Banana farmers in Uganda are yet to benefit from the Presidential Initiative on Banana Industrial Development (PIBID) which has been in existence for 18 years with a promised goal of enhancing the country’s banana industry. 

PIBID was designed around a rural Technology Business Incubator (TBI) and an Industrial Technology Park (ITP) with a vision to establish farmer-managed state-of-the-art banana processing enterprises in Uganda.

Established in Nyaruzinga Sub County the initiative would produce value-added matooke (raw banana) products with competitive market strength both locally and globally. 

However, Mr Asaph Mugizi, the chairperson of Uganda Banana Producers Cooperative Union, who is also the vice chairperson of Mbarara District Farmers Association, says the factory has not had an impact in terms of improving the banana value chain, leaving farmers frustrated.

“The neighbouring communities in the district where it’s located might be benefiting but other matooke producing districts such as Mbarara, Ntungamo, and Isingiro have not,” he says.

He adds that PIBID has not helped farmers because the prices of matooke have remained low further expressing that during bumper harvest, a bunch of matooke goes for as low as UGX 1,000 and when there is scarcity, it is at UGX 15,000 on average, citing no value addition on their matooke.

Meanwhile, a report by the World Economic Forum (WEF) states that Uganda, as the world’s second-largest producer and consumer of bananas (India is the first), can potentially boost the country’s economy if every section of the value chain is effectively leveraged.

With a global production value of about 10 million metric tons and banana consumption of almost one kilogram per person, per day, more than 75% of Uganda’s population relies on bananas as a staple food, outlines the report.

However, according to the report, the fruit contributes to major post-harvest and processing waste, with tons ending up in landfill.

“Every harvest season, banana stems are discarded, posing environmental issues for banana farmers, collection centers and trading sites,” outlines the report.

According to WEF, community-based start-ups, such as TEXFAD, work with smallholder banana farmers who supply banana stems to the company for waste upcycling, hence creating a circular economy.

Thanks to the startup, banana farmers are beginning to appreciate the new value of the would-be waste banana stems, enjoying increased incomes from their banana waste upcycling, and producing over 30,000 square feet of rugs each year.

“In addition to banana fiber carpets, local artisans are testing ways of turning banana fiber into biodegradable hair extensions and cotton-like textiles ideal for apparel and the fashion industry,” explains TEXFAD founder Muturi.