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New technology cuts banana ripening time by about 10 days

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Vincent Oyaro holding avacado and a bunch of bananas nest to a ripening chamber. The chamber reduces banana ripening time from about 14 to four days. Photo: Laban Robert.

Rigesa Youth Group in Nyamira County is using a banana ripening chamber technology which takes 3-4 days to ripen bananas unlike the traditional ripening using banana and other ethylene emitting leaves that takes between 10 and 14 days, a practice which is earning the group over Sh1,000 per bunch.

According to the group chairman Vincent Oyaro, a mature well grown tissue culture banana of about 80 kilogrammes can have 2,000 banana fingers. If sold green for cooking or ripening, it fetches between Sh1,100 and Sh1,300. But ripening it in the chamber for the three days, its value shoots to above Sh3,000.

“Our group has 15 members and each member is only required to pay Sh20 for buying avocadoes which are used in the chamber. They then wait for few days before collecting them for the market as they shall have ripen,” said Oyaro.

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The 8,000 banana fingers capacity chamber which is made of metals and polythene papers has three compartments in which 10-100 avocadoes are placed in the lowest chamber depending on the number of banana fingers to be ripen.

The avocadoes produce an ethylene gas, a compound of carbon and hydrogen that causes fruits to turn yellow.

“Avocados and passion fruits are ‘catalysts’ in this process because they release a lot of ethylene. Passion fruits start ripening while still in the farm. Bringing them to the chamber means ready release of good quantity of the gas,” said Oyaro.

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The group sells bananas to traders from Kisumu, Kisii, Kebirigo, Kericho among other markets in the Nyanza and Rift Valley regions who flock Kisii Town to buy bananas as the region is well known in the fruit production. They ripen the bananas upon orders from the traders.

The upper bigger fingers fetch Sh20 when sold in threes while the smaller middle ones earn Sh5 each; the smallest fingers are sold at three for Sh10.

The group which was started in 2006 and been receiving financial support from Word Vision, an international non-governmental organization, has since moved to banana value addition by baking cakes, bread and chops crisps among other products.

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