Uganda: Women farmers transform excess bananas into increased income (Free Speech Radio News)

| June 13, 2016

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Food goes to waste far too often. Harvests rot before they are sold, or families purchase more than they can consume, and the remainder goes bad.

So how do you ensure that a huge harvest of bananas doesn’t go brown? Make wine.

A group of farmers in Uganda is transforming bananas into a product with a longer shelf life—banana wine.

Elizabeth Nsimadala once struggled to feed her family and send her two children to school. Now, the 36-year-old is a founding member of a group of women farmers who are making a good income with banana wine.

A few years ago, an NGO visited Mrs. Nsimadala’s village in southern Uganda and taught local farmers how to grow and harvest bananas. Her banana harvest increased, but she was left with a problem: overproduction.

She explains: “The project, which was supposed to be a blessing to the communities, became a problem because there was overproduction, [so] the prices decreased. So, instead of getting money from bananas, a bunch went as low as 500 Ugandan shillings [$0.15 US].”

Bananas were no longer worth selling because the price was so low and the cost of transporting them to market so high. So farmers began feeding them to animals.

But no longer. Mrs. Nsimadala and other women in her area have learned to make banana wine. Simply transforming the bananas into wine has increased her income.

She explains: “A bunch … can go for $10 [US], but once processed, you can make a net profit of $200 [US], which is unbelievable to many. To me, it’s a reality because I am doing it. We are doing it and we are getting the results.”

Transforming the excess bananas has created more income for Mrs. Nsimadala and her fellow farmers. But it also ensures that their hard work isn’t wasted.

Food waste has become a big concern. Nana Osei-Bonsu is the chief executive officer of Private Enterprise Foundation in Ghana. She says that too many people who need food don’t have the money to buy it. This is happening at the same time that food is going to waste because selling prices are too low to cover the cost of transporting the harvest to market.

Mrs. Osei-Bonsu says the problem of wasted food is linked to a lack of infrastructure, affordable transportation, and harvesting techniques. She says that farmers too often wait until fruit is fully ripe before harvesting, and then must sell or eat the fruit within a few days. Harvesting earlier would leave more time for the food to be transported to market and sold.

She adds: “[There’s] $4 billion [US] equivalent of food losses in a year in the continent, and if you can conceptualize what $4 billion can do to alleviate poverty in our various countries, then you can understand the waste and the economic deprivation that food loss is causing the continent.”

To read the full story on which this article is based, African farmers seek creative solutions to cut back on food waste, go to:

Photo: Elizabeth Nsimadala Credit: