Nelson Chirchir’s farm hosts about 100 ture at different times so that he earns throughout the year. banana plants that earn him some good in- ‘debe’ of farmyard manure per “For optimum yields, I apply one come every month, having started out with plant every month. I also use 250g 10 seedlings he picked from neighbours of NPK 2323 fertiliser per stool, which is preferred for the bananas,” says Chirchir.
NKNA holes at Sh50 each after sourcing Aft er ripening, Giant Cavendish elson Chirchir considers the planting materials from oth- can take up to two weeks before gohimself a non-conformer, er farmers.
I started farming to ing bad, unlike the Uganda Green, which is why he does not keep myself busy soon aft er grad- which takes two to three days, grow tea in an area where uation in 2017 but now it is a busi- notes the farmer.
the crop is dominant. ness," says Chirchir, a Community From a seedling, the Cavendish On a third of his two-acre fam- Resource Management and Exten- takes about 18 months to be ready ily farm in Sigowet sub-location, sion graduate from Kenyatta Uni- for harvesting.
Kericho County, he cultivates versity. Dr Nasambu Okoko, a senior refour varieties of bananas name- The full-time farmer has stag- search scientist at the Kenya Agrily Giant Cavendish, Uganda Green, gered his crops to ensure they ma- cultural and Livestock Research OrNg’ombe and Sweet.
“Of all the bananas, I love the Giant Cavendish because it has very big fingers. Its bunches are also very big, compared to other varieties and it fetches good money in the market,” he says, noting the variety occupies half of the land on which he grows bananas.
He has 44 plants of the variety, 40 Uganda Green, eight sweet bananas and Ng’ombe is the latest addition, of which he has 10 .
“I am growing Ng’ombe on a pilot basis because I want to increase the number of plants aft er seeing their performance,” says the 32-year-old, adding he grows sweet bananas for domestic consumption.
Chirchir, the chairman of Sigowet Community Demand Driven Committee, a farming group, says he went for bananas as a business be- Nelson Chirchir on his banana farm in Kericho County where he causes the crop does not require farms full time. ANNE MWANGEMI | NATION.
Food and Crops Research Institute in Kisii, says the banana is one of the most important food crops that do not have an organised seed system.
“But we are developing improved varieties that are climate-smart and yield highly,” says Okoko. “The aim is to ensure farmers plant clean materials.”
Chirchir and tens of other farmers receive training on banana production, value addition and new varieties from the Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture Project (KCSAP), run by the government through Kalro and other partners.
The training has helped him fi ght diseases like cigar-end rot, which affects bananas. The disease is caused by the fungus Trachysphaera fructigena and spreads to the tip of the fruits, causing a scorch-like rot that resembles cigar ash.
“One must prune the bananas to enhance air circulation. Dampness around the fi ngers provides conditions that are conducive for fungi to thrive, causing cigar-end rot,” offers Chirchir.
His long-term goal is to add value on the bananas by ripening and making crisps.
“I also plan to do commercial seedling production using macro-propagation as a means of producing clean planting materials.”
Dr Okoko says tissue culture bananas are tolerant to diseases and drought, ensuring farmers earn more. “Even under extreme climate changes, they are able to grow and the farmer will be able to get some harvest.”