In 2013, Jastus Nyambane Ongeri, cleared all is banana plantation from his half an acre farm as a way of getting rid fusarium wilt, a disease that had caused their leaves to turn yellow and stunted their growth. Four years later, he harvests 30 bunches a week, earning him Sh24000 when unripe and Sh60000 when ripe.
“I did not know what was ailing my bananas until I visited the Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organization (Kalro) stand at the Kisii agricultural show. There I met banana culture experts whom I talked to and told me the cause of my banana problems,” said Ongeri.
“Unfortunately, I did not have enough money to buy the pesticides recommended and was advised to clear my farm and start afresh.”
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His bananas were suffering from banana wilt diseases- fusarium wilt (also called the Panama disease) and Xanthomonas wilt diseases which were causing him considerable losses in terms of production and income.
After destroying all the vegetation on his farm he tilled it and went for new Grand Nain variety of banana seedlings at Sh100 each from a Kalro extension officer in Kisii County. Ongeri then planted them in already prepared furrows measuring 30 by 60cm. He then used the organic manure from his cow shed mixed it with the top soil to plant the seedlings and he spaced 1.82m by 1.52m which saw piece of farm carry 1815 bananas.
To meet the water need of the bananas, the Suneka sub-county farmer is dug and installer a damliner in his farm that is 4.6m long by 3.6m wide which helps him collect enough water during rainy seasons and use it to irrigate during the dry seasons. He backs this up with three centimeters thick layer of dry grass and dried banana leaves around the corm or suckers as mulch at the onset of any dry season.
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“Banana farming needs enough preparation and management in order to realize enough production. This is why I water harvest and just before the start of dry season I spread some grass and old banana leaves to prevent excess water loss from the soil,” said Ongeri.
He also weeds twice a week to prevent any weed establishment especially when the bananas are still young further making sure that the last one or two hands of the bunch are removed.This facilitates fruit development of the remaining bunches and increases bunch weight.
“I harvest my bananas by cutting the stems and carefully lowering bunches down placing it in a padded basket with banana leaves to avoid brushing. Mature bananas without marks or injuries have high demand by the consumers,” said Ongeri.
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