The biodiversity of bananas at risk of extinction in Uganda

Being a Gastronome, I am practically a lover of good food and I know that it takes a lot of work and commitment to attain good food.

I am a farmer of bananas and bananas are our traditional staple food in Central Uganda. All my work rotates around protecting the traditional banana varieties which are delicious and highly nutritious, they are prepared in various ways: steamed and/or boiled. They are the major source of food in central, eastern, and parts of western Uganda: There are bananas suitable for cooking (e.g. Gonja, Kivuvu, and all of the varieties collectively referred to as Matooke). For raw consumption (e.g. Ndiizi (apple bananas and Bogoya); and for making beverages (e.g. kayinja and Kisubi). In addition to providing food security, bananas represent an important cultural heritage and have numerous local and traditional functions in the daily lives of many Ugandans.

Bananas are generally harvested before they become fully ripe, when they contain more starch and less sugar. Bananas are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fibre, and are of great value as a food for children.

The biodiversity of the banana is truly extraordinary: There are about 50 varieties which have fed people in Uganda for more than 1,000 years. It is smart to grow many varieties in a single garden as a defence against diseases and climatic shocks, and in order to target different markets and different consumers, with different tastes and preferences.

Income from the sale of fresh bananas and various products derived from bananas helps raise the standard of us the famers living in rural communities and traders in the market places while guaranteeing the health of consumers. It is vital to protect this rich banana heritage, which is under threat from the introduction “super bananas of a GMO” program.

We should not believe the banana lies that traditional bananas varieties will be destroyed by bacterial wilt because the bacteria also attack hybrid varieties, and some traditional varieties are more resistant than others. There is another lie that traditional banana varieties are not nutritious yet the traditional varieties have fed us for generations.

I am want re-organising our farm land to focus on the revival and protection of at least 15 traditional banana varieties each year planting 70 stocks of each varieties for as long as time allows to have all known and unknown varieties protected with the idea of paying close attention to each of them in order to document their advantages to make this knowledge available to farmers, students, researchers, consumers and the future generation.

The outcomes for my project will be the number of traditional varieties I will be able to rediscover and prevent their extinction, the number of people who will gain good agronomic practices from my garden and replicate it and the level of improvement in the livelihood me and of those who work on my farm. My motivation comes from the fact that I support the idea of Food sovereignty which promotes policies and practices that serve the rights of people to safe, healthy and ecologically sustainable food production. I as well want to take part in the short supply chains as an alternative way to distribute food to consumers.

Name/TypeUses
Ndizia (apple bananaDessert, cakes, fibres for making art & crafts
MatookeFood, feeds, leaves for wrapping food, fibres
KayinjaBrewing, juice, fibres, leaves for wrapping food
BogoyaFruit, food, fibres for roofing
GonjaStreet food (roasted), fibres
KisubiJuice, leaves, brewing, fibres for art & crafts
MbiddeFood during famine, fibres, brewing, juice

Time Horizon for my project in 2019

Figure showing already portioned land adding up to 4 acres

January: Acquisition of land and partition into 10 plots

February: Preparation of Land and finding banana suckers of traditional varieties at risk of extinction

March: Finding of suckers and planting.

April: Planting and terracing of the land.

May: Joining conferences and seminars on the issue of plant protection and sustainable farming.

June: Installation of irrigation systems and mulching

July: Documentation and research on the project.

August: Application of biological methods on diseases and pest control.

September: finding banana suckers of traditional varieties and planting.

October: Documentation and research on the project

November: De-suckering and intercropping.

December: Documentation

John Wanyu, Uganda

18 comments

  1. This is so helpful. Thank you. I hope this project pushes through. Many Ugandans will definitely benefit from this. Matooke being my favorite, I’m excited to see and learn about various kinds of Matooke

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  2. This is much interesting,can you publish this documentary also in the news papers we have possibly locally and internationally! And as well to change it may be in the local languages! Thank you for this lets all show case in this 👋

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  3. This is such important work! I was amazed by how strong the food culture was while I was living in Uganda, but it was also very clearly at risk from biodiversity loss, much of which was influenced by globalization. We need to protect banana varieties in Uganda, where we have a great opportunity to protect both biodiversity and culture in the face of threat.

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  4. This is an amazing piece…these varieties define us…a threat to them is a threat to us all…they deserve to be protected.

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  5. Bananas have been a turning point for many in uganda
    Especially many youths who graduate out of university and take it as a real job

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  6. Uganda is known for its delicious food as matooke ,any body putting effort to develope it growing is worth support
    Bless u

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  7. Great initiative for such an important food crop. I would love to see the progress of this wonderful project. Awesome work!

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  8. Preserving the traditional and local varieties of bananas (and it works for many other crops!) is vital not only for crop sustainability but also from a cultural and gastronomical point of view… This is a beautiful project John!

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