Killing two birds with one stone

Banana cultivation in the Central Ethiopian State has gained significant attention in recent years due to the numerous benefits it offers to farmers by replacing eucalyptus tree with banana. This shift has sparked a positive transformation in the region, impacting various aspects of the economy, environment, and livelihoods of local communities.

In Ethiopia, banana cultivation has its own economic benefit apart from the advantage it provides for the growth and development of other crops. Bananas are a highly marketable crop with a significant local and international demand. The region’s favorable climate and fertile soils make it suitable for banana production, allowing farmers to earn a sustainable income and improve their living standards. The profitability of bananas compared to eucalyptus trees has attracted many farmers to shift their focus to banana cultivation, leading to increased economic activity in the area.

Jamal Hasan, Agriculture Office Head of Eastern Silti wereda, told Ethiopian Press Agency the impact of eucalyptus trees and the efforts being made to shift to banana production.

Jamal emphasized that farmers or growers are able to generate income from eucalyptus trees only once in ten years. As a result, the living standard of the society is remained poor. In response to these challenges, the agriculture office is aggressively working with agricultural research institute with a vision of replacing eucalyptus trees with other fast yielding cash crops like banana.

Jamal stated the collaborative efforts between government bodies, research institutions, and local farmers brought about positive change. The dedication of high caliber agricultural experts who has been conducting research and come up with practical solutions showcases their proactive approach to addressing the challenges posed by eucalyptus and capitalizing on the opportunities presented by banana cultivation.

Ahmed Rashed, a farmer in Gerbi-ber Kebele of the stated Wereda, appreciated the support provided by the Agronomists in their pursuit of self-sufficiency and poverty alleviation. Through offering training and fulfilling the dare need to the farmers , the bureau has empowered them to be self sufficient and improve their economic by generating an income.

In the region around Silti Abaya Lake, a significant initiative has taken place. Around 20 hectares of eucalyptus trees have been uprooted to make way for banana plantations, he said. Through this process, about eight hundred farmers in the area are being benefited. Drawing a lesson from the best practices of these farmers, the bureau has replicated to other parts of the woreda, Ahmed mentioned.

Moreover, the value chain of this new trend such as planting, harvesting, processing, and marketing has created jobs for the locality. The initiative by the bureau has also become a source of income for numerous individuals. In short, the program has immense contribution for poverty alleviation and backwardness, he remarked.

In addition to the economic advantages, banana cultivation in central Ethiopia has significant environmental benefits. Eucalyptus trees are growing fast and adapt variable agricultural conditions. Though it is also highly water-intensive, the tree can deplete groundwater resources. On the other hand, banana requires less water when compared it with eucalyptus trees, this make it suitable for water-scarce regions. Applying the program, farmers are also contributing their share to water conservation efforts and promote the efficient use of resources.

According to Jemal, the prevalence of eucalyptus trees in the zone has had significant consequences, particularly in receding the size of Lake Abaya. Eucalyptus tree has extensive root systems when compared with other plants for nutrients and moisture. As the fertility of the agricultural land decreases, it discourage farmers to be effective by producing other agricultural products. This has had a profound impact on the local community, he said.

In contrast, bananas have a shallow root system that allows for better soil aeration and nutrient retention. The cultivation of bananas helps maintain soil health and fertility as well as ensures the long-term sustainability of agricultural practices in the region.

Beyond the economic and environmental benefits, bananas provide nutritional value to the local population. Banana is rich in vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber that contributs to a balanced diet and improved health outcomes. The availability of home grown bananas has reduced the dependence on imported fruits and promoted food security in the region. Additionally, bananas can be processed into various value-added products, such as banana chips, banana flour, and banana puree, creating opportunities for diversification and enhancing the value chain.

The transition from eucalyptus tree plantations to banana cultivation has also had social implications. Farmers who have shifted to bananas have experienced improved social cohesion and community development. Collaborative efforts in banana farming, such as sharing knowledge, resources, and experiences, have fostered a sense of unity among farmers. This collective approach has proven to be more effective in addressing common challenges and maximizing the benefits of banana cultivation.

It is important to note that the shift to banana cultivation does not imply the complete eradication of eucalyptus trees. Eucalyptus still holds value in certain contexts, such as for timber production or as windbreaks. However, the diversification of agricultural practices through the integration of bananas provides a more sustainable and balanced approach to land use. Moreover, environmental benefits, such as water conservation and soil fertility improvement, contribute to sustainable agricultural practices. Additionally, bananas enhance food security, provide nutritional value, and promote social cohesion in local communities. The shift to banana cultivation represents a significant step towards a more resilient and prosperous agricultural sector in the region.

In the East Silti woreda, significant progress has been made in this regard. A total of 105 hectares of land in the Wereda alone have been dedicated to banana cultivation, leading to the engagement of more than 262 thousand farmers in this endeavor. This demonstrates the scale and importance of the transition, Jemal noted.

Looking to the future, Ahmed stated that the farmers have a desire to have a market center which help distribute the produce to other parts of the country. So, the farmers face a crucial challenge in terms of having infrastructural facilities. They have urged the government to curb the challenge they faced so far in relation to infrastructural developments. The improvement of transportation networks help them to manage the distribution of agricultural products and pave the way for overall economic growth and development.

Jemal further stated that the agriculture office is working diligently to address the challenges faced by farmers. Efforts are being made to provide improved seeds, develop essential infrastructure, integrate the market for agricultural products, and tackle other related bottlenecks. As the measures taken so far with a vision of creating a favorable environment for farmers to be continued as it thrive the banana cultivation sector and enhance their overall livelihoods.

The agriculture office’s commitment to supporting farmers in the transition from eucalyptus to banana cultivation highlights the recognition of the long-term benefits associated with this shift. By diversifying agricultural practices and embracing a more sustainable approach, the local community can improve their economic prospects, preserve the environment, and ensure food security, he remarked.



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