Enhancing banana farming by adding value

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Banana is one of the most abundant fruit crops in East Africa. It is one of the most attractive sources of income for farmers with more than 10 million tonnes of bananas are produced in East Africa, with most of it grown by small-scale farmers.

In Kenya, banana is mostly grown in Central, Eastern, Western, and coastal regions. Excess production is sold in the local market either as plantains for cooking or ripe banana fruits. Unfortunately, farmers continue to experience great loss of bananas due to poor post harvest handling and transportation. Bananas can, however, be processed to expand their marketing value. Some of banana value addition methods are very simple and can actually be done at the farm kitchen and the income from the sales can be very rewarding.

Making banana flour

Bananas can be processed to make banana flour. The banana flour has great potential for commercialization due to its numerous uses and health benefits. The banana flour can either be fortified or used as it is to make nutritious porridge and when mixed with other flours it can make a variety of dishes such as chapati, mandazi and banana cakes.

Processing Method

• Remove green bananas from the bunch.

• Slice into small pieces with the peelings so as to maintain the nutrients in the peels.

• Sun-dry on the rack, until 10% moisture content is achieved. You can test by gently pressing the cuttings.

• Mill and sift

• Package and store in a closed, dry place.

Banana Jam

Over ripe bananas should not go to waste any more. With the most basics of equipments, a farmer can turn his or her bananas to a sweet and enjoyable jam. Bananas with sweet taste, fine flavour and texture can be processed into excellent jam right in the farmer’s kitchen, both for domestic and commercial use.

Processing Method

• Mash the bananas and put in a heavy saucepan with lemon juice, and honey.

• Heat the mixture until it simmers over medium heat and then turn to low. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring every five minutes or so.

• Turn off the heat and let it cool until it is cool enough to taste.

• Let the jam cool completely to room temperature - it will thicken up as it cools.

• Package and store in the fridge for a week or less.

As a farmer, you can experiment with various flavours like vanilla, cloves or cinnamon depending on the tastes of your customers.

Banana Juice

Kenyans enjoy drinking fruit juices. But getting a good affordable juice that is not full of chemicals can sometimes be a difficult task. Banana drinks can be very tasty, refreshing and healthy.

Processing Method

• Put ripe sweet bananas into a blender.

• Add milk.

• Cover blender and run it on low for 10 seconds.

• Put orange juice into a small bowl or a cup.

• Add honey to the cup.

• Stir to mix them well.

• Add the honey mixture to the blender.

• Cover the blender and run it on low for 30 seconds.

• Package and store the juice in dry cool place

Bananas can also be processed into other products like biscuits, sweets, wine, crisps, beer and sauce. This can earn farmers more income and satisfy different tastes of consumer who do not like raw bananas. To improve their bargaining power farmers should be organized into growers associations. Establishing factories to process bananas into various products; improvement of infrastructure to ease transportation of bananas. There is need for government and other stakeholders to provide affordable credit facilities to empower the various actors in the banana agribusiness. There is also need for laws and policies that support value addition of bananas and other agricultural produce.

Further scientific research is also needed to control banana ripening process to reduce post-harvest losses. The Government should ensure that there is no exportation of raw bananas but instead processed products which would earn maximum profits.

To watch a video of a women’s group success in processing banana flour, visit Access Agriculture website www.accessagriculture.org

>>Are you a bee farmer? Share your experiences with TOF and fellow farmers. Send email to [email protected],  leave a comment below this article or SMS to 0715 916 136.

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