PLANTAIN (MUSA SPP.) CULTIVATION IN AFRICA: A BRIEF SUMMARY OF DEVELOPMENTS OVER THE PREVIOUS TWO DECADES
Banana and plantain (Musa spp.) are amongst the major food staples in Africa, where more than 31 million t/year are produced, primarily from small family farms, accounting for approximately a third of global production. However, per capita consumption has continued to fall in urban areas where, in some cases, it has become a luxury product. The discrepancy between demand and production has been reflected in often significant price rises in urban areas. As a consequence, plantain has become increasingly less affordable for low income populations. In most African producing countries, production is stagnant if not decreasing. Diverse studies have attributed this situation to land tenure constraints, shortening fallow periods, declining soil fertility, increasing pest and disease pressures, poor access to inputs, marketing chains with many intermediaries and production areas distant from markets. These challenges call for innovation along the value chain from production to marketing, including the service sector. Starting in the 1980s, in light of the importance of these crops, plantain and banana research and development in Africa has accelerated. The West African Regional Cooperative for Research on Plantain (WARCORP) and the International Association for Research on Plantain and Other Cooking Bananas (IARPCB) had pioneering roles, although most research was at that time dedicated to export banana. The International Network for the Improvement of Banana and Plantain (INIBAP) and its two regional networks in Africa contributed to awareness rising and increased collaboration among national programs and advanced research institutes. New research on pests and production, and breeding initiatives were initiated through the Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD) and the Centre Africain de Recherches sur Bananiers et Plantains (CARBAP) in Cameroon, and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) at Onne, Nigeria, later in Cameroon and Uganda, and more recently Ghana. Production and marketing issues in Africa have some similarity to Latin America, where in recent decades production has increased in response to increased demand. Lessons can be drawn from such experiences towards addressing problems in Africa. Plantain in Latin America has benefited from technical advances in the export banana sector and more demanding supply chains organized by supermarkets. This has resulted in more uniform and healthier planting material, agronomic and cultural practices directed to higher yields and better quality fruits, increased use of irrigation and fertilizers, and short marketing chains, which pay growers based on weight and quality. South-South cooperation from Latin America could have a stimulating effect on the marketing chain management, intensification process and innovation management as a whole in Africa.
Lescot, T. and Ganry, J. (2010). PLANTAIN (MUSA SPP.) CULTIVATION IN AFRICA: A BRIEF SUMMARY OF DEVELOPMENTS OVER THE PREVIOUS TWO DECADES . Acta Hortic. 879, 445-455
CARBAP, CIRAD, history, IITA, Musa, research