1-15062015071154After many years of getting meagre returns from coffee, a group of farmers in Kirinyaga and Embu counties have started growing high-yielding banana variety.

Through funding from the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa, a banana nursery was set up in the two counties and growers were trained on how to tender the crop.

Jacinta Mugo from Kirinyaga County has her three-acre farm under bananas. She used to grow coffee in the same piece of land for years.

Turning to bananas was one of her best decisions, she says. The farmers sell their produce as a group to maximise returns.

“A bunch used to go for Sh120 but we designed a method where we weigh the bunches,” she said, adding that each kilogramme attracts about Sh15. A bunch weighs between 30 and 35 kilogrammes, making approximately Sh450 and Sh525.

Ms Mugo is a member of Ramini group which has 60 members 40 of which are women. There are 206 similar groups in Kirinyaga County although 120 are unregistered.

“We do not have to negotiate with brokers any more. I now make about Sh700,000 per year compared to Sh71,000 I used to realise from coffee,” she said.

“After I cut down my coffee, I planted maize harvesting about 40 bags in the first season. I now have over 3,500 banana plants,” she said.

EXCITING FARMING

Jean Munene, a retired principal of Karima Girls High School said she sells about two tonnes of bananas per month from her nine-acre farm.

“Banana farming is exciting; I am passionate about what I am doing,” she said, adding that the business is not labour intensive.

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According to the chairman of Murindi fresh growers, Mr Erasmus Ndambiri, the three varieties of bananas grown from tissue culture which the farmers are growing are grad nain, Williams and Phie 17.

The farmers are now seeking new markets in the Middle East to increase their returns.

However, availability of water has been their main challenge, notes Feliciah Wambui, a farmer from Kirinyaga. But this is set to be a problem of the past once the group implements an irrigation project.

“We now have a pledge from a donor for a small-scale irrigation scheme of Sh11 million. Equity Bank has also promised to loan us Sh11 million. We have raised Sh10 per cent of the cost of the Sh23 million project,” said Ms Mugo adding that on weekly basis, she spends Sh3,500 to irrigate her farm.

In Embu County, farmers are also thriving from the crop and are calling on the government to set up a banana collection centre and a factory to curb post-harvest losses.

Rosemary Muthoni Kithaka, secretary of Banana Growers Association of Kenya noted that there are many products that can be made from bananas.

By YVONNE KAWIRA #DailyNation

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