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Florence Wambugu 1, Margaret Karembu2, Michael Njuguna1 and Samuel Wakhusama Wanyangu 1
The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), ISAAA AfriCentre, C/o CIP, P.O. Box 25171 Nairobi, Kenya, Tel: 254-2632054/151, e-mail: F.Wambugu@cgiar.org

Department of Environmental Studies, Kenya University, P.O. Box 43844, Nairobi, Kenya. Tel: 254-2-810901, e-mail: karembu@hotmail.com

This project was conceived in response to the rapid decline in banana (Musa) production experienced in Kenya over the last two decades. The decline was brought about by: infestation with Panama disease or Fusarium wilt caused by Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. Cubense (FOC); Black and Yellow sigatoka leaf spot caused by Mycosphaerella fijiensis (Morelet) and Mycosphaerella musicola (Leach) respectively; weevils (Cosmopolites sordidus) / nematode (Radopholus similis) complexes; and, environmental degradation. The common farmer practice of using untreated sword suckers aggravated the problem further. The situation threatened food security, employment and income in banana producing areas. Thus the broad goal of the project was to make available to small-scale resource-poor farmers clean and improved banana seedlings to alleviate the increasing poverty and hunger in Kenya. These farmers make up to nearly 80% of the Kenyan population and their agricultural production, which is mainly subsistence, contributes over 90% of food production in the country. The application of tissue culture (TC) technology to address these constraints, was therefore an appropriate option to ensure availability of clean planting material. The specific objectives of the project were to build and upgrade banana TC capacity in Kenya by (i) systematically introducing the technology to farmers and supporting them with the necessary extension, (ii) establishing public/private sector links to ensure timely availability of the TC materials, (iii) carrying out a technology diffusion study to understand and appropriately respond to any issues that may limit adoption of the technology and (iv) developing a sustainable production-distribution-utilisation system as a means of ensuring food security and creating jobs. To a large extent, the feasibility and appropriateness of the technology within the farming system of smallholder farmers was established. However, several issues relating to the eventual large-scale commercialisation of the technology emerged. The first one was the need to include an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) package in order to prolong the orchards longevity. Secondly, for farmers to reap maximum benefits, it was found necessary that field management packages to safeguard the health of the plantlets and the environment be included in the technology transfer package. Thirdly, the cost of plantlets was found to be an important limiting factor to technology diffusion. As a result, access to credit for orchard establishment was found to be essential. The project now sees a need to establish a sustainable system of wider evaluation and horizontal technology transfer through involvement of a broad network of partners with comparative advantage to mobilise large-scale impact. Keywords: Banana, biotechnology, benefits, Kenya, poverty alleviation, small-scale farmers, sustainability, tissue culture


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Kenyans obtain most of their food, livelihoods, employment and foreign exchange earnings from the agricultural sector, even though only 20% of the countrys territory is arable land (CBS, 1996; Sombrock, et al., 1982). In addition, the population growth rate of over three percent per year registered in Kenya in recent years has placed an increasing strain on the food production, income and employment potential of the agricultural sector and its natural resources in the country. As a result, hunger and poverty levels have been on the increase. Dependence on cash crops, such as coffee and tea, further restricts the availability of land for food production. At the same time, low levels of farm inputs and management, inadequate land for crop rotation among smallholder farmers, who make up to 80% of the population, and lack of disease-free planting materials have recently resulted to higher pathogen pressure on farming systems than in the past years (Nyangito, et al., 1986). Pests and pathogens become endemic in the soil while land scarcity limits the opportunity for rotational production so that many crops are planted into infected soils, perpetuating the problems. The intensification of agriculture has also implied accelerated depletion of soil as a natural resource or resulted to reduced productive capacity. All these factors compound the problems and exacerbate the need for improvements in food productivity in the short term while maintaining the productivity of the agricultural natural resource-base for future generations.

There are several ways that poverty alleviation can be reduced in Kenya. One of them is to increase agricultural productivity per unit area of land. Among the agricultural crops that show great potential for increased production is the banana (Musa). Indeed, the importance of bananas throughout the world, and in Kenya cannot be over-emphasized. The crop is the worlds third important starchy staple after cassava and sweet potato (FAO, 1987). Its world production estimates are placed at 49.63 million ton, of which 6.44 million is grown in Africa, 20.31 million in Asia, 13.31 million in South America, 1.5 million in Oceania, 7.66 million in Central America and 0.42 million in Europe (INIBAP, 1991; Robinson, 1996). It is mainly consumed domestically, with an annual per capita consumption of 220-460 Kg, providing more than 25% of the total calories consumed (INIBAP, 1991). In Kenya, and to a larger extent, the East African region, the crop is mainly grown and managed by smallholder farmers, predominantly peasant women. Table 1 shows the average banana production statistics for the provinces of Kenya during the period 1996-1997.

Table 1: Average banana production statistics for the provinces of Kenya (1996-1997) Province Area (ha) Production (t)

Yield (t/ha)

Production share

(percent) Central Coast Eastern Nairobi North Eastern Nyanza Rift Valley Western Total 16,913 5,743 9,669 48 271 30,234 2,688 7,800 73,366 169,316 55,341 97,144 409 1,522 574,740 39,781 86,107 1,024,360 10.0 9.6 10.0 8.5 5.6 19.0 14.8 11.0 14.0 (average) 16.5 5.4 9.5 0.0 0.1 56.1 3.9 8.5 100.0

Source: MALDM (1996, 1997).

Besides being a source of carbohydrates, essential vitamins and minerals, banana is attractive to smallholder farmers because it is appropriate for inter-cropping. Production begins within 14 months from planting and may last up to ten years thus bringing reliable family income. Over the last two decades however, banana production in Kenya and the Eastern Africa region has been on the decline (MOA, 1994). This decline has been brought about by the infestation with Panama disease caused by Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. Cubense (FOC), Black and Yellow sigatoka caused by Mycosphaerella fijiensis (Morelet) and Mycosphaerella musicola (Leach) respectively, weevils (Cosmopolites sordidus)/ nematode (Radopholus similis) complexes and environmental degradation. As a result, bananas have become increasingly costly (Figure 1) and no longer serve as a ready supply of highly nutritious food and cash for rural populations, particularly women and children. The situation threatens food, employment and income security in banana producing areas. The common farmer practice of using infected sword suckers has continuously perpetuated the spread of banana diseases and pests, which are estimated to reduce yields by up to 90% (MOA, 1994) thus worsening the food security situation.

Figure 1: Average retail prices of banana in major markets in Kenya between 1990-1994

12 10 8 6 4 2 0 Jan Feb Mar Apr 1990 May Jun 1992 Jul Aug Sept 1993 Oct Nov Dec


Source: Agricultural Statistics Section, Central Bureau of Statistics, 1994

Unavailability to access clean planting materials for banana growers in Kenya and East Africa constitutes a priority problem since banana contributes to the livelihoods of many as well as the nutritional needs, employment and income for nearly 20 million people in the region. The introduction of tissue culture (TC) techniques for banana propagation was thus perceived as having the potential to help reverse the situation since it would ensure timely availability of clean planting material. The basis of the technology is the ability of many plant species to regenerate a whole plant from a shoot tip. It entails using tiny shoot-tips as the starter propagation material, which is dissected into small pieces. The shoot-tips are then placed in a growth medium (in sterilised flasks) that contains glucose and other nutrients. A dosage of growth hormones or regulators is added into the medium. Different hormones are added at different stages to enhance various processes of growth such as shoot initiation, multiple shoots formation and rooting induction at the final stage. These induce vigour, commonly referred to as "hormonal kick," that brings the parent material to a juvenile stage, causing remarkable physiological changes that influence the agronomic characteristics of the emerging plant

These observations have been consistent with other crops such as sugarcane, pyrethrum, trees, and

flowers where the TC techniques have been applied. It has also been noted that these physiological adaptations dilute down in subsequent generations and are not heritable genetic changes. In the case of the banana, under temperate conditions, the changes take up to about the fourth generation to revert to the original parent/traditional banana vigour and agronomic characteristics. Under tropical conditions however, the changes are expected to take a longer period, at least up to the sixth generation. This implies that the economic window of enhanced production is limited to a period of four to six years before the plants must be replaced.

In six months, up to 2,000 individual plants (plantlets) can be produced from a single shoot. With the usual nursery sucker method, only about 10 suckers can be produced from one plant in the same amount of time. These plantlets are then transplanted into tiny pots and kept in the highly humid laboratory atmosphere for 10 days to acclimatize and harden to the conditions of the natural environment. The relative humidity is then decreased gradually, until they are hard enough to be replanted in the greenhouse in bigger pots. After potting, they are ready for the field in two months, at which point they are about 30 cm high. The young tissue culture plantlets are extremely tender and sensitive to water stress, and they require special attention for at least five months if they are to perform well. Planting out must therefore coincide with the on-set of long rains unless irrigation is available.

The sterile operational nature of tissue culture procedures excludes fungal, bacteria, and pests from the production system, which means that sigatoka, Panama disease, weevils, and nematodes cannot be transmitted through the TC micro-propagation process. However, viruses, such as the banana bunch top and the episomal form of banana streak virus, are not eliminated by tissue culturing unless measures are taken to prevent the transmissions from happening (e.g., virus indexing). This project addressed this issue through an appropriate survey for disease incidences in the country.

It is in the context that TC had the potential to improve banana production amongst smallholder farms that the overall project on Banana Biotechnology to Benefit Small-scale Banana Growers in Kenya was conceived. The project intended to build and upgrade banana TC capacity, to expand the genetic base of banana and the varietal choice for growers by exchanging and introducing selected superior banana varieties with enhanced pest and disease resistance and higher yield from reputable breeding programmes in the world, develop a sustainable distribution system of the TC materials to the smallholder farmers, and commercially evaluate the adaptability of this technology

within current farming practices in Kenya. Key concerns were the profitability and sustainability of producing and using TC materials as a business venture, and its potential impact on hunger and poverty alleviation in Kenya and neighbouring countries of Tanzania and Uganda.





The working hypothesis of the project was that making improved and clean banana planting material accessible to resource-poor small-scale banana growers in Kenya, through TC technology and collaborative sourcing and distribution of TC banana plants, was feasible, cost effective and beneficial to farmers and the country. To test this hypothesis, a research design was developed that encompassed:

Establishing a pilot facility focussing on four benchmark banana growing sites in Kenya and centred on the reinforcement of existing tissue culture facilities.

Developing appropriate methods of sourcing starter materials from farmer-preferred varieties and bringing them to the laboratory for propagation.

Establishing appropriate links among suitable partners in production, distribution, and marketing and the benchmark sites, thus creating a self-sustaining system.

Undertaking field trials to determine the yield potential of local as well as introduced TC germplasm under optimum and current farmer management conditions in the sites.


Partnerships in technology development, acquisition, testing and dissemination

From the inception of the project, the lead institution, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) had a clear vision of the projects direction. ISAAA identified the Kenya Agriculture Research Institute (KARI) as a suitable collaborator to host the project based

on the following attributes: KARI had the comparative advantage of having a network of research centres throughout the country, including the banana growing areas; it had the human resource capacity to conduct the on-station cultivar evaluations and agronomic studies for varieties that were not locally grown; and KARI had the necessary infrastructure to offer extension services.

ISAA also identified a collaborator to supply the initial planting materials for both the KARI stations and the farmers fields. Since Kenya did not have sufficient capacity to supply the plantlets, DuRoi Laboratories, a private company in South Africa with long experience in tissue culture multiplication was approached. This was important because the project needed to use high quality materials to make a distinction. A local counterpart private company in Kenya, Genetic

Technologies Limited (GTL), was identified to handle the materials after they arrived from South Africa. Furthermore, GTL had experience with tissue culture work in other crops.

Technical backstopping was considered crucial to the success of the project. The Institute of Tropical and Sub-tropical Crops (ITSC), a public institution of South Africa, was identified as possessing the relevant experience and human resource capacity to perform this task. The John Innes Centre of UK was identified to conduct virus diagnostics.

ISAAA identified the Rockefeller Foundation and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada to fund the project. In addition, the African Technology Policy Studies (ATPS) network provided funds for banana technology diffusion research. This was important since past experiences with new innovations have generally shown that if the needs and interests of end-users are overlooked, then little adoption of the technology takes place. The Zentrum fur Entwicklungsforschung (ZEF) Center for Development Research, University of Bonn, Germany carried out an ex-ante impact assessment study. Table 2 shows a summary of the main activities of the partners involved and their responsibilities on the project.

Table 2: Summary of the main activities, institutions involved and their responsibilities in the Kenyan TC banana project
Objective TC Production Institutions GTL, KARI, DuRoi Laboratories (S. Africa) KARI, ATPS, ISAAA, Farmer groups. Main output Selection of varieties, TC production, quality control and assurance, training in nursery management On-station trials, varietal comparisons, spacing, agronomy, TC versus suckers comparisons, inter-cropping, training, demonstrations and technology diffusion Distribution mechanism channels Schools, Churches, onfarm trials, markets, village leaders and farmers. Remarks Enhanced public/private, collaboration, and stringent quality control Appropriate infrastructure and policy framework required

Strategic/ adaptive research


KARI, ISAAA, CBOs, Farmer groups

Well designed marketing plan, entrepreneurial skills and willingness to participate

Linkages with farmers (end-users)


Needs assessment through PRAs, varietal choices, orchard management, access to TC, on-farm trials Training, TC/suckers, large and small-scale farms demonstrations and financing Socio-economics: pricing, quality control, distribution and training. Manure business, micro-irrigation, Banana Growers Association, private investments e.g. banana-related businesses and export markets Designing appropriate field management packages; commercialization strategy, disease diagnostics and training

Participatory approach geared towards meeting farmer expectations and aspirations.

Marketing/ Selling of products

KARI, ATPS, ISAAA, ZEF (Germany) and Farmer groups. Micro-entrepreneurs NGOs

Market structure establishment, packaging standards Political and economic stability required, entrepreneurial skills for identification of business opportunities Public-Public sector collaboration, networking and experience sharing

Expansion (Indirect benefits)

Technical backstopping

ITSC (S. Africa), John Innes Centre (UK) and DuRoi Laboratories (S. Africa).

NB: Funding was mainly from The Rockefeller Foundation and the IDRC. Key: CBOs = Community Based Organizations, NGOs = Non-Governmental Organizations, PRAs = Participatory Rural Appraisal.

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Study sites

Four banana-growing regions were identified: Thika in the Central Province, Kisii in the Nyanza Province, Embu in the Eastern Province, and Mtwapa in the Coast Province. These provinces adequately represented the major agro-ecological zones (AEZ) of Kenya. They are also the major banana growing regions in the country.

The KARI research centers locally responsible for these regions were identified as link institutions to undertake demonstration trials and farm-level monitoring. To enhance the possibility of success, only the Thika and Kisii KARI centers took part in the first year of the project. Embu and Mtwapa centers were recruited in the subsequent years. This approach allowed the two centers taking part in the first year to receive the necessary support to overcome the inevitable teething problems. Table 3 below gives the characteristics of the trial sites within these areas.

Table 3: The characteristics of sites where tissue culture banana trials took place




Altitude (metre)

Rainfall (mm) 900 1750 600-950 1800 1800 1500 1000-1250 1000-2000 > 2000 > 2000

Participating farmers On-station 14 4 On-station 2 12 On-station 6 On-station 1

NHRC-Thika Kiharu-Maragwa Gathiga-Kirinyaga RRC-Kisii Kenyenya Suneka RRC-Embu Embu-Gatituri RRC-Mtwapa Mtwapa

Central Central Central Nyanza Nyanza Nyanza Eastern Eastern Coast Coast


1500 1400 1300 1750 1700 1500 1500 1450 0-50 0-50

Key: NHRC = National Horticultural Research Centre, RRC = Regional Research Centre, UM = Upper Midland, LM = Lower midland, CL = Coastal line


Performance and demonstration trials

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On-farm and on-station TC evaluation trials were carried out under the supervision of KARI. TC banana plantlet cultivars of Chinese Cavendish, Gold Finger, Valery, Grandnain and Dwarf Cavendish were tested. Comparison of performance was made between TC bananas versus conventional suckers, TC bananas versus first generation suckers and TC bananas versus first generation suckers. The overall objectives were to evaluate: performance of TC banana plantlets in different AEZs; performance and farmer acceptability of different banana cultivars in farmers' fields; performance and other characteristics of introduced/new banana cultivars; and, to develop reference points for comparing performance on farmers' fields. Other objectives were to find if there were any advantages in terms of yield, early maturity of crop and any other superior attributes of using TC plants as opposed to the conventional suckers and to find out if the first generation suckers from TC carried over the vigour potential the TC plants had initially .

Routine agronomic practices for banana were applied throughout the studies that were designed in Randomised Complete Blocks with 3 replications.


Independent socio-economic and impact study

With support from ZEF, the project undertook a socio-economic and ex-ante impact study of the TC banana technology. Data used in the analyses was based on a number factors. Amongst these were: Banana production statistics Regional aspects of banana production Correlation matrix for different characteristics of banana farms Characteristics of banana farm types Banana plantation establishment cost by farm type Recurrent annual cost of banana production by farm type Average banana cost and income figures by farm type Banana plantation establishment cost without and with TC technology Recurrent annual cost of banana production without and with the use of TC technology Average banana cost and income figures without and with the use of TC technology Technology-induced changes in cost and income figures under different price assumptions for TC plants (percent)

Estimated technology adoption rates under different price assumptions for TC plants (percent) Benefits and distribution effects of the technology for different scenarios.

Qaim, (1999) details the analyses carried out to establish the ex-ante impact of the TC banana.


Technology diffusion studies

This was carried out by means of a survey in the study areas. Data was collected on variety preferences and social acceptance, compatibility of TC banana with the existing farming practices, the potential impact of the cost of TC plantlets on the diffusion of TC technology, gender issues with regard to the technology, marketing of bananas and techno-managemental practices.




Results of performance trials

The performances of the demonstration trials were excellent. On average, small-scale farmers harvested bananas with a bunch weight of more than 40kg compared to the usual average of 1530Kg (MOA, 1994). The trials also created enormous interest among small-scale farmers, especially in the project areas. As a result, the demand for tissue culture planting materials has increased tremendously. To facilitate the acquisition of these materials, KARI and ISAAA collaborated to identify a church group and several key farmers in different areas to establish nurseries and distribution points. Farmers in project areas can now access clean TC planting materials through these nurseries. The role of the project was to help in the establishment of the nurseries, distribution points, and the link between the TC source and the nurseries. This strategy was meant to ensure the sustainability of the project after the funding period came to an end.


Results of an independently conducted socio-economic impact study

An independent socio-economic impact study demonstrated that the average per acre incomes for small, medium, and large-scale farms could rise by 156, 145, and 106 % respectively (Qaim, 1999). This was in complete contrast to the traditional belief that small-scale farmers cannot benefit from modern biotechnological applications. The study also demonstrated both the high profitability

of the incremental investments required for the technology package and the general suitability of TC for all farm types. In addition, the study has shown that using the TC technology would considerably increase the net return on labour for all producer groups, an important criterion given the relative labour scarcity in the individual farm household.

From the same study, it is evident that the TC technology is likely to bring about substantial aggregate growth in the welfare of the Kenyan banana sector, regardless of the underlying assumptions of the cost for in vitro plants. A recent survey conducted in Central Kenya, one of the field trial zones, has reported that some farmers are willing to pay as much as US$3 per plantlet! This is obviously a result of the demonstrated relative advantages and economic promise associated with the adoption of the TC technology. The projected average annual change in the total economic surplus ranged from US$ 8 to12 million dollars (Qaim, 1999).

Other interesting features, often neglected in producer-oriented evaluations of farm technology, are the advantages for food consumers. The impact assessment study showed that productivity gains could cause banana prices to decline. This would improve the real income situation of purchasers and thus their welfare. The study has revealed that consumers would capture between 40 and 55 percent of the total economic surplus gains.


Results of the technology diffusion study.


Variety preference and social acceptance

Results obtained showed that the varieties initially supplied by the project to farmers were not preferred and they became indifferent to the technology. One such unpopular variety is the Dwarf Cavendish. The study showed that farmers preferred their own varieties, hence the project focus changed to transform the farmers orchards from traditional to TC materials. The bunch size of the improved traditional banana varieties was much bigger.


Compatibility of TC technology with existing farming practices

Farmers did not report any problems with their cropping system and thus the improved TC banana did not seem to affect other crops in the inter-cropped farms.


Cost of plantlets

Despite the fact that under traditional farming practice, farmers usually obtained free swords from their neighbours to plant, it was encouraging to note that with the demonstrated superiority of TC banana, they were willing to pay for the TC plantlets whose cost ranged from one to two US$. The main constraint for farmers to obtain the TC plantlets was found to be a convenient supply.


Gender issues in TC banana technology

An interesting observation from the field study was that despite banana being a predominantly womans crop, there were divisions as to which varieties could be marketed by which gender. In Kisii for instance, the women mainly marketed apple banana, which is small and does not fetch much money. Men on the other hand marketed the cooking type (Ekeganda Grade and Ngombe), which is much bigger and fetches more money on the market. The banana TC attracted more men although there did not seem to be much competition for land as had been envisaged. It was encouraging to note that men were supportive of the technology and as household heads who make decisions on what is to be planted, this aspect did not affect the adoption of the technology.



Due to increased production, there definitely existed a market problem and middle traders were increasingly exploiting farmers. Current market studies are addressing this problem. Meanwhile, farmers have been encouraged to form marketing associations that could regulate the prices and also develop proper marketing plans and storage facilities to enable them benefit from the realised yields. The formation of a Banana Growers Association is in the progress.


Techno-managemental practices

The study showed that the TC plantlets required more labour and other inputs such as water and manure. De-suckering was rarely carried out and the tendency was to find very many suckers under one stool. A standard hands-on information package on management is therefore needed since different entrepreneurs were selling suckers and no information was given to the buyers. The

farmers strongly opposed the use of fertiliser as they believed that synthetic fertiliser could affect the quality of bananas by making them soggy and tasteless. The information package should give options since in any case organic manure is readily available. A few farmers from Kisii initially complained about labour requirements but this was overcome by the demonstrated high yields realised by the technology. Meanwhile, lack of water remains the single most constraint important that could limit TC banana technology diffusion.


Opportunities created by the TC banana technology

The project has many opportunities that have immense potential of impacting all the stakeholders across the board if well defined and properly managed. The opportunities have been identified and the bottlenecks associated with each one discussed and therein bringing out the researchable elements from which bottlenecks will be minimised and opportunities optimised.


Benefits to the farmers

The technology package has brought many benefits to farmers. The most important is the availability of improved, disease free planting materials. This way, the farmers can now be able to replace their degraded orchards with superior material which is early maturing (12-16 months compared to the conventional banana of 2-3 years), bigger bunch weights of more than 30 kg and a higher annual yield per same unit of land, (40-60 tonnes per hectare have been observed). This is a very significant achievement given the very small farm sizes (1-2 acres) with a majority of the farmers. The uniformity and more simultaneous plantation development of the TC plantlets further promises easier marketing and co-ordination of the whole production process. Another very important advantage is the ease at which superior new germplasm can be introduced and disseminated through the various institutional partners of comparative advantage the project has brought on board.

The project provides very unique opportunities to both small and large-scale farmers in the country in that it will ensure that TC banana planting materials will be available to banana farmers. This is a noteworthy development because for many years, clean banana planting material had remained a major constraint to banana production. These will not only supply the local germplasm but will also include improved introduced banana which are both high yielding and some resistant to

Fusarium and Sigatoka disease. In addition, local germplasm, which for a long time has been discarded as unproductive due to the perennial disease and pest infestation, will be cleaned and reinstated to the farming system. With some research, there could also be opportunities for invitro conservation of local divers of germplasm in TC laboratories which otherwise could be lost in the field impacting biodiversity.


Benefits to TC production laboratories

The outcome of the project are two private and three public laboratories that are currently involved in the TC banana production. Prior to the implementation of the project, there was only one public laboratory at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT). This is a clear indication that there is potential business opportunities for increased plantlet production in each of the existing TC laboratories and for new laboratories to emerge especially as more banana growers get to know of the new technologies. The ultimate outcome of the increase in the

laboratories and their capacity will be increased entrepreneurial activities and income to both rural and urban households. The TC laboratories also have opportunities to link with international sources of improved TC banana germplasm and introduce new varieties in the countries. There are opportunities for in-vitro conservation of local and introduced germplasm.


Opportunities for the distributors

The use of tissue culture has brought new opportunities for companies involved in distribution of TC banana planting materials. Experience based on the project so far indicates that non-

governmental organizations (NGOs), community-based organizations (CBOs), banana farmers and farmer groups are currently involved in the TC planting material distribution. It is envisaged that more players will join the distribution work, as more opportunities become available.


Opportunity for fruit vendors and retailers

Fruit vendors will have an opportunity to trade with wide range of products, which will increase the choice for their customers. Tissue culture banana harvest is fairly predictable and plants can be planted to coincide with a specific season. The supply of the high quality TC banana fruit to the market place at predictable harvests due to uniformity will ensure steady income to the traders

from their banana trade than is the case at the moment.


Opportunity in processing of the final product

Opportunities exist in the post harvest utilization of the banana fruit, which result in major economic gain to all the stakeholders in the banana industry. Banana processed production are

viable business opportunities that have been exploited in most countries for many years. However this has not been applied locally due to lack of sufficient good quality fruits. Further to that, the local banana supply fluctuates with the season of the year rendering the formal market economy unviable. The TC banana holds promising opportunities of filling this void by providing both the desired varieties and a consistent supply for processing. Other post-harvest utilization innovations will be developed, as the fruits become available .


Opportunity for transport Providers

Like in any other product, it is important that banana reach the market at the right time. For the banana to reach the market and thus the final consumers, transport providers will be involved at different levels. Transport will be provided by the different means that are available in different social economic set-ups and therefore increasing income-generating opportunities for the local participating communities.


Opportunity for IDRC/KARI/ISAAA

Food insecurity remains a major threat to most rural communities in Kenya and other African countries. The TC banana project holds the promise of alleviating hunger by increasing food production and reducing poverty for TC banana farmers in a large proportion of small-scale households. It thus provides an opportunity for IDRC, KARI and ISAAA to fulfil the responsibility they are charged with to impact on hunger and poverty reduction in rural and urban communities.


Bottlenecks encountered during the TC banana technology dissemination

Several bottlenecks have been identified that may impede the development of a sustainable system: Some of these are:

Quality control: A system of quality control needs to be put in place to ensure all materials going through the local laboratories meet the phytosanitary requirement. This will be crucial, especially as more private entrepreneurs get interested in this business line. Quality control needs to ensure that somaclonal variants are reduced in the field to an acceptable level of not more than 2%.

Lack of research and technology to cope with trouble shooting: About 80% of bananas are produced and eaten locally and hence the need to produce and increase the local varieties. Initially, the Kenyan TC laboratories currently involved in the tissue culture production lacked the expertise and technology to initiate and propagate local genotypes. The problem however, was resolved through collaboration with the national Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) of Uganda where an on-going Rockefeller Foundation funded project had been working on this problem and had made a breakthrough. It is proposed that the public TC laboratories in Kenya, such as KARI and the Universities, should take lead in some relevant research and development on technology development for local varieties not yet developed. This would then encourage large-scale private sector intervention as need arises.

Lack of diagnostic facilities: The entire East and Central Africa region does not have diagnostic facilities for virus indexing to ensure that the materials being multiplied in the country are virusfree. This is an impediment in trans-boarder transfer of materials that have proved to have potential in production and resistance to diseases, and which could have a major impact in other countries. Luckily, a survey for viral diseases incidence in Kenya in 1997 from a UK expert, Dr. Roger Hull, which was facilitated by ISAAA, indicated that Kenya had no visible viral disease incidences, such as those of Banana Streak Virus (BSV) and Bunchy top that exist in Uganda. With TC material however, there are higher chances of BSV expressing itself. Further, since cross boarder movement of materials, especially along Western and Nyanza Provinces which boarder Uganda, is expected to increase, it is important that additional surveys are carried out to facilitate the development of a virus-diagnostic kit for regional use. This will, however, require separate funding

Price harmonisation: The current five TC laboratories in Kenya are pricing their planting materials differently. It has been observed that two of these laboratories, which are private,

are charging more for their plantlets because they need to make profit to remain in business while the public laboratories are charging prices that are commercially unsustainable because they get subsidies from the government and donors. Since farmers will tend to go for the lowest prices in the market, this can be a major barrier to adoption because the public laboratories can only supply small quantities that cannot bring the desired impact in the country due to low production capacity. Additional studies would be needed to establish the costeffectiveness of running subsidised nurseries and how policy could facilitate their development. This would increase competition and thus lower the prices of the TC materials.

Lack of information on the market: It is quite evident that middlemen have been able to exploit small-scale farmers because the latter lack relevant information about the markets. This gap needs to be filled. A viable option being explored is the linking up of the farmers through their Banana Growers Association to existing institutions that are helping rural communities to set up commodity information tele-centres. One example of such an institution is ACDI/VOCA, which has been helping the farmers to set up commodity centres in strategic areas. The project will explore modalities of improving linkages with such institutions for cost-effectiveness in setting up such information structures for the TC banana producers.

Poor linkages between farmers and tissue culture laboratories: Linkages between these key players are obviously missing and research is needed to learn how to establish them. Farmers also need to be organised into groups to benefit from the economies of scale in the purchase of the TC materials and also to increase their bargaining power in selling their produce.

Clearly, these bottlenecks need to be alleviated if successful and sustainable commercialisation of the technology is expected beyond project support period. This would also ensure that the participating groups reap the potential benefits anticipated from the TC technology. Some of these bottlenecks require research to establish the specific elements to be addressed while others call for direct intervention. It is proposed that a second phase of the project should focus on alleviating the identified bottlenecks and constraints around the whole process from production through distribution and utilisation.




The banana TC project was conceived in response to the rapid decline in banana production brought about by the infestation of Panama diseases, sigatoka, weevils/nematode complexes and general environmental degradation that had been identified and documented during the last two decades. Most of the banana pests and diseases are transmitted through suckers from infected parent plants and from one farm to another, a common practice among small-scale farmers. By using this practice, banana yields can be reduced by up to 90% when compared with the use of clean, disease-and-insect-free planting materials such as that obtained from tissue culture.

An important component of the project design was a monitoring, evaluation and documentation mechanism to assist in the assessment of the feasibility and cost effectiveness of the banana TC development process as a commercial venture and in the drawing of policy recommendations for potential scaling-up. Other planned activities included the intensification of growing tissue culture materials throughout the country, and the exchange of superior germplasm regionally and globally.

In the international agricultural biotechnology debate however, fear has often been articulated that technological developments might neglect or even discriminate against the poor in developing countries. Prior to the implementation of this project, little empirical evidence has been available to support or disprove this argument. An impact assessment of the current project has concluded that the TC technology is likely to bring about considerable aggregate welfare growth in the Kenyan banana sector (Qaim, 1999). Potential yield and income gains for the poorest farmers are even higher than those for the relatively richer and larger farms (Qaim, 1999). The banana TC project has opened up avenues for quick introduction of such biotechnologies that are most promising, especially for resource-poor farmers.

KARI was involved in data collection from both on-farm and on-station trials. It was also involved in managing and supervising all the activities in these trials. ISAAA closely monitored all the project activities to ensure focus. In this model, the on-station trials were run concurrently with the onfarm trials. This is because most of the cultivars used had previously been evaluated by South Africa and were being grown in their farmers fields. Drawing from the South African experience, it was possible to evaluate the cultivars directly in the farm fields of Kenya. The farmers for these initial on-farm trials were identified through Participatory Rural Appraisals (PRAs) that were conducted in the project areas. Farmers were selected who were willing to own the project and


provide labour and farm yard manure. Access to water was also a critical factor because tissue culture banana plantlets are very sensitive to water stress.

The successful performance of the trials created enormous interest among farmers within and out of the project areas. This has continued and a large number of farmers have expressed great desire in transforming their orchards with the TC materials. This has posed an enormous challenge to the project team. For one, the materials are at a cost yet most of the farmers are resource-poor and are not able to purchase enough quantity to break even, with many of them affording only a few (5-10 plants), too little to make a large impact on poverty alleviation. Secondly, unlike suckers, the TC materials require added care and improved management in terms of inputs (especially water) during the first five months of establishment implying that the technology package must be inclusive of techno-management information and education. But perhaps, the major limiting factor as observed from adoption trends is the higher price of TC plants which are costing between 0.81.2$ unlike in the conventional method where suckers are given free or at a minimum cost of about 0.3$ (but of course infected!).

Many a times, agricultural researchers are sometimes criticised for over looking the needs and interests of farmers in technology transfer programmes. This has led in many instances to the production of technologies, which do not appeal to the farmers. In some instances, the technologies do not fit into the production systems and this is a loss of considerable time, money and momentum. Past experiences have demonstrated that farmers may adopt a certain component of a technology package, while refusing another component or adopting it at a later stage according to subjective profitability and risk considerations. For instance, a substantial number of banana growers could decide to buy TC plantlets without exactly following the recommendations for regular de-suckering or for the amount of manure and fertiliser to apply. Of course such individual modifications of the package would influence the yield levels obtained. Indeed, given the traditional banana cultivation practices in the country, it would be quite unrealistic to assume a sudden and complete adoption of all recommended components by the growers. Possible adoption constraints could impact

negatively on the entrepreneurial groups interested in engaging into such enterprises. This project tried to circumvent the above problem by conducting ex-ante impact as well as technology diffusion studies alongside the main technology dissemination process. It is during this process that pertinent issues such as the need for a credit scheme were identified.

An ex-ante socio-economic survey conducted in the rural banana growing areas in Kenya revealed that the cost of the plantlets is indeed a critical variable in determining the technology effects at the farm level and that there is a high demand for credit (Qaim, 1998). Yet the majority of rural communities have no access to any credit and even when surplus cash is available, especially during the harvest season, it remains outside the formal financial system. This market failure limits the growth of rural agricultural enterprises, which contributes to widespread unemployment and underemployment, perpetuating the poverty cycle. This scenario has contributed to escalating rates of rural to urban migration, with the serious consequences this has entailed. It is the conviction of this project that the poverty cycle can be broken through appropriate links and arrangements with credit providers. Research is therefore needed to determine the strategic options to improve the welfare benefit share of participating groups e.g. provision of credit, co-operative marketing, information dissemination and the best cost-effective ways of implementing such options.

The technology diffusion studies showed that the cost of plantlets could drastically limit diffusion. On realising this, ISAAA explored, together with the farmers, on possible options for accessing the materials. One method that the farmers came up with was through provision of credit to purchase the initial planting material. Problems however arise because most micro-finance institutions require collateral, which the small-scale farmers do not have. Again, during the field trials, it was

established that the feasible minimum range of a commercial unit that farmers aspiring for credit could maintain, putting into consideration important variables such as inputs, management, cost of TC plant and land preparation was about 80 plants. At this threshold, a potential return of US$ 230 is expected, fair enough for the farmer to repay the credit within the first harvest cycle (about 15 months). The plants would also cover at least an eighth of an acre, which is actually the land that majority farmers are able to free for bananas. Unfortunately, this requires an initial investment of about US$ 200, which is beyond reach of the resource poor farmers. It is therefore proposed that the minimum number of plants that would qualify for micro-credit and at the same time produce profits for the farmers should be 80 plants. The second challenge is how to manage the credit scheme.

In an effort to address micro-credit provision, ISAAA has proposed and initiated (on a pilot scale) a lending model for small farmers, which is based on the Grameen Group Approach. This model relies on Peer-group monitoring which reduces lending risks. It also overcomes the three major constraints that prevent formal financial institutions from offering credit to the poor where the

functions of screening, monitoring and enforcing of repayment are transferred from the bank agents to group members. The model replaces recurrent lending transaction costs by replacing a multitude of small loans to individuals with a larger group loan. Another important advantage that the group lending brings to members, and which is very relevant to the banana program, is the information, education and monitoring that members-get at the community level compared with individual contracts between a bank and borrower.

Under the proposed micro-credit scheme, banana farmers join together in friendship groups of about 30-50 members and managing the whole process through elected leaders, with ISAAA playing a facilitative role. They are expected to repay the loan at 20% simple interest rate after harvesting the first crop. In order to promote group cohesion, members contribute a minimum agreed amount of money on a monthly basis, but the group is ultimately responsible for the repayment in case of individual defaults. The leaders of the groups are responsible of screening potential borrowers and enforcing payment as well as communicating any field performance issues to the facilitating institution. The program is based on a revolving fund rationale where money given out is repaid and lent out to new farmers. The outcome of a preliminary introduction of the micro-credit scheme in the late 1999 has been overwhelming with a planting material demand for this season alone and in only four areas that the project has been operating (which is less than 50% of the banana growing region in the country) being more than 100,000 plants. This demand poses an even bigger challenge for ISAAA since the adoption is spreading fast throughout the country. Consequently, the project sees a need to establish a sustainable system of wider evaluation and horizontal technology transfer through the involvement of a broad network of partners to mobilize large-scale commercialization. This forms the focus of the proposed project (see attachment).



This project successfully brought on board a variety of partners that played different but key roles. The initial field research was important in helping to understand the optimal conditions under which the technology would diffuse within the existing farm realities of inter-cropping, cultural values (social acceptance, gender issues), and environmental orientations (land and water use patterns). It was agreed that ISAAA would help to identify and engage partners that would participate according to their comparative advantage in the different roles as expected from the collaborating institutions.


Adjustments were made to the implementation procedure and also to the activities to be executed as the partners were engaged.

The model used for TC banana technology transfer in Kenya is worth replicating in a similar socioeconomic environment. It is a unique model, which has not been applied before in this region, and the success that has been attained so far is incredible to say the least. In a span of less than three years, small-scale farmers are already reaping the benefits of the biotechnology application. A substantial number of farmers in and out of the project areas are now able to easily access TC banana planting materials within a radius of less than five kilometres. This is no mean achievement given that three years before the start of the project, there was very limited TC banana research work in Kenya. The country could also not supply any planting materials to the farmers. The most interesting aspect of this model is the powerful synergy produced through the comparative advantages of the different collaborators, drawn from both the public and private sectors. Nine collaborators worked on the project, each one playing their strategic role without conflicting with the other partners.

This project brought about new experiences of growing health banana plantlets under tropical conditions as a commercial initiative, which is overall lacking from the public sector. It provided a rare opportunity for KARI, a public funded research institution, to work with industry to promote the delivery of advanced biotechnology applications to resource-poor smallholder farmers. The farmers also had an opportunity o test a new innovation and learn with the scientists in their own field. The emphasis placed on collaboration between scientists and extension created mechanisms and channels for partnerships throughout the research, development and distribution. This is in accordance with government policies put in place following the World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) initiated Strategic Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) that have seen a decline in resources to government extension services. The business environment created by the project is conducive for the development of an indigenous biotechnology sector which holds promise as one of the most powerful tools available, but which has not been fully exploited as an intervention method, to help reduce poverty and hunger especially in the third world.



ISAAA wishes to thank all the institutions involved in this project. Their collaboration was instrumental to the achievements of the project. The institute also wishes to sincerely acknowledge the scientists who took part in the project. In particular ISAAA wishes to recognize the inputs of Dr. J. S. Wafula, Mrs, M. Onyango, Mrs. F. Nguthi, Mr. J. Mutisya, Mr. J. Muthamia, Mr. F. Muniu and Dr. Zaag De Beer. Last but not least, ISAAA wishes to acknowledge the farmers who participated to made the project a success.



CBS, (1996). Welfare Monitoring Survey II. 1994. Basic Report. Central Bureau of Statistics, Ministry of Planning and National Development. 341 pp. FAO, (1987). Agricultural Production Yearbook. Food and Agriculture Organization, Rome. INIBAP, (1991). Regional Network for Eastern Africa. INIBAP, Montpellier, France. MOA, (1994). Annual Reports - Kirinyaga, Kisii and Murang'a Districts. Ministry of Agriculture, Government of Kenya, Nairobi. Nyangito, H.Z.C., Oganda, H.T.K. and Jami, J. (1986). Banana production and marketing improvement programme. District survey report and project proposal. Proceedings of the Regional Advisory Committee Meeting. Kampala, Uganda. Robinson, J.C. (1996). Bananas and plantains. CAB International Publication. 238 pp. Sombrock, W.C., Vraun, H.M.H., Vander Pouw, E.J. (1982). Exploratory soil map and agro-climatic zone map of Kenya. Report B5A, National Agricultural Research Laboratories, Soil Survey Unit, Nairobi, Kenya 56 pp. Qaim, M (1998). Transgenic Virus Resistant Potatoes in Mexico: Potential Socioeconomic Implications of North-South Biotechnology Transfer. ISAAA Briefs No. 7, International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, Ithaca, NY. Qaim, M (1999). Assessing the impact of banana biotechnology in Kenya. ISAAA Briefs No. 10-1999. Published by ISAAA in collaboration with Zentrum fur Entwicklungsforschung Centre for Development Research Universitat Bonn. 38 pp.


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