ASWAp– SP II in a clean banana suckers propagation drive

Travelling in the steep slopes of the mountainous Thyolo and Mulanje districts, the evergreen cover of tea and bananas ushered a beautiful scenery to travelers just a decade ago.  Not long ago, a good number of graduates we see today managed to complete their education with money realized from banana sales. Parents and guardians in the two districts and other parts of Malawi counted on banana bunches for food and income.

The benefits of bananas to the farmer and everyone are multifaceted. Matured green bananas are in some parts of the country cooked and eaten as a staple food. When ripen, they are eaten as a fresh fruit very rich in vitamins. Bananas make good sales on the market and the demand for the fruit is never quenched, as such, they are also grown as a cash crop.

“Bananas have greatly contributed to the social-economic development of my area and the whole country, Malawi. . Banana farming is not an energy intensive farming activity, doesn’t require fertilizers but its demand is always increasing and makes good sales”, says Senior Chief Mthiramanja of Mulanje.

Senior Chief Mthiramanja, Mulanje District


Nevertheless, banana production in Malawi has in the past decade been declining and threatened to extinction due to the occurrence of Banana Bunchy Top Disease (BBTD) which is caused by the Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV). BBTD has spread to almost all the areas and districts where bananas are grown in the country. This has greatly disturbed the social-economic development of the farmers who heavily depend on the fruit for food, nutrition and income.

Healthy Banana Field in Mzimba District

“Bananas assist us a lot. When our fields were attacked and destroyed by BBTD, we were stranded and hopeless. We didn’t know what to do and we were facing a lot of challenges to acquire some basic needs of our lives”,  laments Martha of Mawira village under Mkosi of Loti Moyo model village in the area of Traditional Authority (T/A) Mthwalo in Mzimba.

The need to revamp banana production in the country has been frequently underscored by different stakeholders in the agriculture sector including the farmers themselves.

In a bid to restore banana production and bring back the splendor of the industry in the country, the second Agriculture Sector Wide Approach Support Project (ASWAp – SPII) is supporting the propagation of clean banana suckers at different designated areas and sites in the country. The clean and disease free suckers are distributed to community propagating fields and further to individual farmers to plant in their respective fields.

Agriculture Research Stations such Lunyangwa in Mzimba, Chitedze in Lilongwe and Bvumbwe in Thyolo are producing clean planting materials which are distributed to farmers with support from the project.

According to Banana Technicians at the stations, they have mother orchards with clean banana planting materials where they get corms which are prepared for planting in the humidity chambers for propagation.  When the corms sprout, primary suckers are killed while secondary suckers are kept and hardened off in tubes for two weeks within the chambers and later distributed to farmers for planting in their fields

Through macro propagation with corms, every three months each corm produces over 25 suckers. There are two beds in the chamber where propagation is currently being done at the stations with 300 corms on each bed. This means through this method alone, the stations on average are producing over 15000 suckers every three months.  The stations propagate four banana varieties of Nzeru, Mulanje, William and Grand Nine according to farmers’ demand.

Lunyangwa Research Station Manager Tony Harris Maulana, says ASWAp – SPII has greatly assisted in the restoration of the banana industry in the northern region and the country at large.  According to Maulana the station multiplies the clean banana planting materials in three ways.

“ASWAp – SPII has helped us a lot in restoring the banana industry. We do multiply clean planting material in different ways. One is to use tissue culture lab which we have here at Lunyangwa. The other one is to use the corm system. We can use split corm or whole corm to produce suckers. The other way is that we are increasing the hectares so that we can get a lot of suckers from there. We have at the moment 8 hectares for banana plantation where we harvest the suckers and then distribute to farmers” he said.

One of the established community nurseries for banana propagation is Nazidongo Banana scheme in Thyolo which was established in 2019. The members of the scheme received 300 clean suckers from ASWAp – SPI and planted the suckers. The scheme has at the moment distributed 89 suckers to its members and sells some suckers to non-members.

Joyce Nazidongo, chairperson of the scheme says, the nursery has brought hope for banana production in the area which was almost become extinct. She says members of the scheme and other villages are benefiting a lot from the scheme as they are now getting disease-free banana suckers.

“Before ASWAp – SPII, we had no bananas here following the attack by BBTD. But when the community nursery was established I got suckers from there and started my own nursery where I am multiplying and selling the suckers. This has given hope for the restoration of banana farming in this area”, she said.

Speaking during a visit to farmers at Magunda in Thyolo, Minister of Agriculture Honorable Lobin Lowe MP, admitted that banana production in the country has significantly declined and we are importing the fruit from our neighboring countries. He further indicated that government through projects such as ASWAp – SPII is doing everything possible to bring back banana farming to its usual state.

Lowe said, “If you follow history you will agree with me that Thyolo and Mulanje used to be our food baskets particularly in the supply of bananas but due to BBTV the industry collapsed and we are eating bananas from our neighboring countries. As government, we have special programs which aim at revamping the industry. We are encouraging farmers to uproot all the infected plantations and we are providing them with clean banana suckers”.

Government and the donor community continue to support farmers through different initiatives and projects to revamp and restore the banana industry in Malawi through the propagation and distribution of clean planting materials. The country through projects such as ASWAp – SPII will not long from now restore banana farming.

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ASWAp-SP II introduces giant Cavendish (Mulanje) banana variety to Chitipa through lead farmers

Apart from ensuring food sufficiency and promoting food diversification for nutrition at household level, ASWAp-SP II also seeks to promote commercial production and agro-processing for market development among smallholder farmers in the country.

As one way towards achieving this goal, the project is promoting production of disease-free banana varieties through treatment and multiplication of healthy banana suckers.

Timothy Sichilindi, a lead farmer from Mwenemalawa village, Traditional Authority Wenya, Chisenga, Chitipa district is among farmers in the country who are multiplying Giant Cavendish (Mulanje) banana variety.

The 61-year-old Sichilindi started farming business in 2015. Ever since, he has been growing different crops (under rain-fed and irrigation) and keeps a wide range of poultry and livestock. But despite his effort, the dedicated lead farmer has not been able to realize expected maximum profits from his farming business due to market constraints.

However, Sichilindi never gave up on farming. He relentlessly continued pursuing his dream of becoming a successful farmer one day.

“I do not believe in resting, as resting means lasting, I work hard and I am a king”, he said.

What is more adorable about his story is that Sichilindi does the farming business together with his wife and children.

“We do farming business together as a family. We plan, work and budget together,” Loyna Kanyika, Sichilindi’s wife explained.

The life of Sichilindi in agriculture started changing in 2018, when he got the opportunity to be among five farmers from Chitipa district who attended a learning tour in Thyolo and Mulanje districts under ASWAp-SP II. According to him, the tour was meant to help farmers from other districts appreciate efforts of ASWAp-SP II intervention in banana production and Banana Bunchy Top Virus disease (BBTV).

Inspired by lessons and discoveries about the crop in the toured districts, Sichilindi and family decided to venture into banana production. Today they are successful banana farmers who have managed to pioneer production of Giant Cavendish (Mulanje) banana variety in Chitipa.

ASWAp-SP II provided Sichilindi with a humid chamber to be multiplying banana suckers, 100 banana suckers which were planted on his 0.2 acres’ land, 50 banana suckers which were planted in the humid chamber for multiplication and polythene tubes.

Most importantly on this investment, ASWAp-SP II imparted the lead farmer with technical knowledge and skills on banana production. Fast-forward the farmer has already started enjoying the benefits.

“The 50 banana suckers were treated and planted in the chamber (in March 2019) and currently there are more than 210 banana suckers ready for sale and I hope to have more suckers this season,” said visibly proud Sichilindi.

Currently, he is the only farmer multiplying the variety in his area. He is even set to make huge profits due to high demand for the variety in the district. In fact, he is selling them at MK2,500.00 per sucker as a start.

The excited Sichilidi poured more praise on ASWAp-SP II for opening his opportunities to successful farming. He believes the gesture will improve food sufficiency and security in Chitipa as more farmers will also benefit from him through access to the variety but also technical knowledge that he will be providing to the interested farmers.

This coming season, Sichilindi plans to plant 2,220 suckers of Mulanje banana variety on his 1-hectare land.

The lead farmer believes that, undoubtedly, sooner from now Chitipa will be home for the variety, thanks to ASWAp-SP II.

Banana is widely grown in Malawi as a cash crop as well as for local consumption. Giant Cavendish (Mulanje) is one of the recommended banana varieties in the country that have high yielding potential and fetches good prices on the market.

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