In improving banana production in East Africa countries, researchers at Kenyatta University in Kenya are now multiplying and testing for the adoption of NARITA hybrid varieties that are high yielding and resistant to Black Sigatoka disease. Banana is the third most important food after maize and rice, with an annual production of 1.5 million tons, lower than the 4.4 million in Uganda and 4 million in Tanzania.
The 25 NARITA hybrids that have been evaluated for agronomic performance in Uganda and Tanzania are going now through similar studies in Kenya under the Climate Smart Banana project supported by VIB-International Plant Biotechnology Outreach (IPBO) www.ipbo.vib-ugent.be. Part of the project is assessing the potential of the hybrids for adoption by farmers, consumers, and traders. Banana farmers in Kirinyaga, Embu, and Murang’a counties will receive disease-resistant and high-yielding varieties to grow through a partnership with researchers at Kenyatta University.
“NARITA hybrids are high-yielding and disease-resistant hybrids, which are the result of over 20 years of joint breeding efforts between NARO and IITA hence the name,” said Mary Mwangi, CLISMABAN Project lead researcher at Kenyatta University-Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Biotechnology.
Mary noted that the poor productivity is attributed to the continued cultivation of low-yielding varieties, deteriorating climatic conditions, soil degradation, pests, and diseases. Past interventions have mainly focused on disseminating disease-free tissue culture seedlings of commercial dessert bananas, with little adoption of cooking banana and plantain that can address the rampant food insecurity in the country.