Plantain and dessert banana are widely cultivated in the humid forest zones of the tropics worldwide at altitudes up to 2,000 m above sea level. In Africa, plantain and the East African Highland cooking banana are among the most important starchy staple food and cash crops with plantain widely cultivated in west and central Africa and the highland banana common in east and southern Africa. Enset is a banana variety endemic to Ethiopia.
The fruits of plantain, highland banana and dessert banana are processed into diversified foods; for example, a starchy staple food is prepared from the pulverized trunk and inflorescence stalk of enset. In addition, there are important non-food products: The peel of the pulp is rich in potash, the pseudostem is a good source of fibre for textile production, the leaves are used for wrapping food and as animal feed, and the sap is used for dye and as an anti-coagulant.
Challenges related to all types of banana production include pests, diseases and invasive weeds. Traditional low-input systems often face high yield losses because no pesticides are used and integrated control methods are still not user friendly for farmers. Furthermore, plantains and bananas have a short shelf life with post-harvest losses of 30-40%. Climate change, in particular erratic rainfall, extended drought periods and increased UV index levels, also adversely affects crop production.
text: Jens Wünsche & Beloved Mensah Dzomeku