Ntakabanyura minting cash from commercial banana farming
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You can not miss it if you are visiting Birenga cell in Kazo sector, Ngoma District for the first time. The big well-mulched banana plantation is one of the eye-catching items in the area. The plantation belongs to Laurent Ntakabanyura, a model farmer in the district who has devoted his energy to commercial banana growing on one and a half hectares of land.
Ntakabanyura was inspired to venture into banana growing after visiting farmers in neighbouring sectors. Previously, he used to grow red pepper, but all this changed when he visited Rukira sector and Gatongo in Kirehe District, where he found a plantation of improved bananas, commonly known as FHIA.
Ntakabanyura says the plantations in Kirehe had huge bunches of bananas that he made an instant decision to switch from red pepper growing. When he returned home, he cleared and prepared land to kick-start the project. He also invited an agronomist for more guidance on banana growing.
“Though the other villagers were also invited to learn how to grow bananas, they never came,” he says.
The farmer used about Rwf1.2 million to buy banana suckers and fertilisers, as well as hiring temporary workers to clear the garden, among other activities.
Ntakabanyura is happy to have ventured into commercial banana growing, saying that he earns much more from the project compared to what he used to make from red pepper farming.
He sells bananas and suckers to other people, which brings in more than Rwf500,000 monthly and invests between Rwf120,000 and Rwf150,000 in different activities each month.
Ntakabanyura grows two types of FHIA; FHIA-17 for making beer, and FHIA-15 for ripe bananas. He sells most of the bananas to small factories in the province that make local beer.
The success of the project has made it easy for him to acquire funding from banks to invest in the business.
Besides the banana project, Ntakabanyura is engaged in the growing of maize and beans to supplement his income and as a way of diversifying his revenue streams.
The farmer employs 10 workers for the day-to-day operations at the plantation. “I also buy most farm inputs, like fertilisers and mulching materials including grass from my neighbours and local stores,” he adds.
Ntakabanyura plans to buy equipment to mechanise the farm. He also wants to engage in dairy farming in the near future, saying this is strategic since he can use animal waste as manure in the banana plantation to boost production.
Financial institutions are still reluctant to fund farming activities which Ntakabanyura says affects their growth and potential to expand and create jobs for others. Also, the absence of big factories to process bananas affects farmers’ income as the small processors pay little money.
Ntakabanyura started the project six years ago. His success has inspired residents to embrace modern farming and some of them always consult on banana growing. He urges those who want to grow bananas to select the species that are more productive.
“I always advise them to avoid mixing many crops in one farm,” he says.
He urges farmers to always remove and destroy banana plants that have been affected by the bacterial wilt disease (kirabiranya) to safeguard their plantation.