Scientific basis for banana cultivar proportions on-farm in East Africa
AbstractBanana (Musa spp.) production and diversity in the East African region, has been on the decline for the last 20 years due to both a biotic and biotic problems. There has been an ecological and socio-economic imbalance in the East African Highland banana (Musa AAA-EA) growing systems due to this decline. However, farmers have been growing these bananas in cultivar mixtures, a practice which ensures the continuous sustainability of the system. Cultivar mixtures, however, seem to be in specific proportions based on the strength and weakness of each
cultivar and so affecting the clone sets to which cultivars belong, as well as providing predictions on the conservation status of each clone set. The primary objective of the study was to account for the farmers’
perceptions behind cultivar proportions and to understand the scientific basis of these proportions in selected sites in East Africa. The study was carried out in Karagwe, Bushenyi and Masaka districts in East Africa, a region considered to be a secondary centre of diversity for bananas. Thirty farms were sampled in one selected parish/ward in the three sites for ecological data. The quadrat method was used to record abundances of identified cultivars in order to determine the cultivar proportions. Ethno-botanical data collected on traditional knowledge
was analysed for twenty-three identified traditional cultivar-selection criteria used in the participatory rural appraisal (PRA), as well as interviews from 15 key informants of each study area. A total of 105 cultivars were identified, 76% of which were the East African Highland bananas. Although fourteen cultivars were common to the three sites, Masaka had the highest proportion with Nfuuka cultivar leading the five clone sets. Cultivar diversity indices explained the proportions in terms of richness and evenness and Nfuuka was the richest clone set. Although all clone sets were represented at each site, they were not evenly distributed; a factor which is disadvantageous in the conservation status of the crop. While results indicated that the agro-ecological and traditional utilisation criteria formed the basis for cultivar proportions on farm for both Karagwe and Masaka, farmers were found to do so because of the high traditional values attached to the crop. However, knowing cultivar proportions in terms of richness and evenness can assist in predicting the stability or change in diversity
of banana growing sites.