- Barza Wire - https://wire.farmradio.fm -

Tanzania: Adding value improves banana shelf life and boosts farmer incomes

It’s raining lightly and Theresia Mushi is holding a hoe. She’s busy inspecting and clearing unwanted plants and suckers in her banana farm. She explains, “I have been growing bananas since 2011. I grow several banana varieties.”

Mrs. Mushi sells raw bananas to customers to make a living. But because bananas are perishable, she adds value by making products that she can keep and sell over a longer period. This includes banana juice, banana flour, and banana crisps.

Mrs. Mushi lives in Mwita village in Moshi, in northern Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro region. She sells both raw bananas and processed products to vendors, local markets, and distant cities and towns in Tanzania.

She says: “I sell one bunch of banana between 5,000 and 7,500 Tanzanian shillings ($2.14 – 3.20 US). I also sell a plastic basket of ripe bananas to people that brew beer at about 15,000 Tanzanian shillings ($6.41 US).”

She says she makes more money from processed banana products because, since the products have a longer shelf life, she doesn’t have to make panicked distress sales She explains: “A kilogram of banana flour sells at 2,000 Tanzanian shillings ($0.85 US), [and] one packet of banana crisps and a half litre of banana juice are sold at 500 Tanzanian shillings ($0.21 US) each.”

Floriana Francis is another banana farmer in Mwita village who also adds value to improve shelf life and increase profits. She has been growing banana for about 30 years and says it has really changed her standard of living.

Like Mrs. Mushi, she sells banana juice, banana flour, and banana crisps, and sells to local beer brewers as well as individual consumers.

Mrs. Francis uses the income from raw bananas and value-added products to support her family. She adds, “I am now capable of paying family bills such as electricity, water, school fees for children, and other family expenses.”

Thomas Pius also lives in Mwita village and grows banana as a source of income. He explains, “Banana crop is my saviour because its products are marketable despite price fluctuations. Banana is very helpful to me and other farmers in my region.”

Mrs. Mushi says banana farmers in her area formed a group and were trained by extension workers from government and non-governmental organizations. She says the trainings helped farmers use good agricultural practices and learn how to add value to increase shelf life and profits.

Mrs. Francis is one of the farmers who benefitted from the group. She says: “Being in a group of banana farmers has been of great benefit to me and my fellow farmers. It is quite difficult to get trained alone, but with a group, trainers are encouraged to come and teach more farmers.”

Mrs. Mushi says that, by adding value to her bananas, she can sell banana and banana products throughout the year. She now relies on banana as the main source of income to support her family. She says, “In the last season, I earned more than 1,000,000 Tanzanian shillings ($427 US).”

Uniterra Tanzania works with local partners in the fruit and vegetable and tourism sub-sectors to help young people and women access better economic opportunities. Uniterra provided support for this story. Uniterra receives financial support from the Government of Canada, provided through Global Affairs Canada, www.international.gc.ca. Learn more and follow Uniterra Tanzania on Facebook at: facebook.com/wusctanzania