Community Macro Propagation Technology for Multiplication of Clean Banana Planting Material | Crop Management (Crop Varieties)

Banana (Musa spp) is a major crop in Africa, and serves both as a food crop as well as a cash crop. It’s a staple food for over 25 million people in Eastern and Central Africa (ECA) sub region. The crop is largely grown on smallholdings ranging from 0.5–3.0 acres. Until recently, weevils, nematodes and black sigatoka were the key constraints in banana production. Farmers were able to utilize ge Read more..

Description of the technology or innovation

Banana (Musa spp) is a major crop in Africa, and serves both as a food crop as well as a cash crop. It’s a staple food for over 25 million people in Eastern and Central Africa (ECA) sub region. The crop is largely grown on smallholdings ranging from 0.5–3.0 acres. Until recently, weevils, nematodes and black sigatoka were the key constraints in banana production. Farmers were able to utilize genetic variability in the Musa spp gene-pool to manage these constraints and harvest at least what was enough for their families and remain with a small surplus for sale. This situation has dramatically changed since the arrival of Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (Xanthomonas campestris pv musacearum) that causes 80-100% yield loss. All cultivated bananas have succumbed to the disease and communities are now threatened by hunger and starvation. In response to the disease threat, several control measures for BXW (such as destruction and disposal of infected plants, disinfecting tools, removal of male buds, keeping away browsing animals, use of quarantine and use of clean planting materials from clean fields) have been developed and disseminated in the region. However, one of the challenges that farmers face is inability to reliably use quality clean planting materials which have been identified as key to the fight against the disease. Planting material is known as the main transmission route for the disease. The macro propagation technology therefore provides an option of multiplying clean banana planting material as a means of enhancing farmers’ access to clean seed and to germ-plasm.

The banana macro-propagation technology involves the use of clean corms that are 5-6 months, which are uprooted, and the sheaths removed up to the meristem. The corm is then dried to remove any liquids or sap  and  then  boiled  in  water  to  ill  any  bacteria  that  may  cause  infection  of  the  young  seedlings.  The corms are then steam sterilized in a bag for 2 hours and then dried for 24 hours before they are planted in the macro-propagation unit. The unit consists of a wooden ash base where the corm is planted and covered with a polythene sheet to maintain the humidity to required levels. From each corm, 4-5 plantlets can be obtained which are cut off, and the meristem killed. The plantlets are replanted to produce other seedlings. The principle is that when the meristem or primary plant is killed, it encourages sprouting of secondary plants. From each corm, up to 30 plants can be obtained.




Assessment/reflection on utilization, dissemination & scaling out or up approaches used

The macro-propagation technology is currently being used by small-scale farmers in two benchmark sites in the Kagera region where the ASARECA supported BXW project is being implemented and coordinated by  Bioversity  International.  The  BXW  project  demonstrated  the  technology  in  benchmark  sites  and constructed seven macro-propagation units in each of the sites. Farmers within the community used the banana planting material generated using this technology to either establish new farms or replant in areas devastated  by  BXW.  The  dissemination  approach  used  to  promote  the  technology  was  use  of demonstrations as training sites  for  farmers  from within  and around the community. There was  limited dissemination of the technology since it was only being demonstrated on-farm. This technology therefore needs  to  be  scaled  up-and  scaled  out-  for  the  benefit  of  smallholder  farmers  in  the  region.  The  FFS approach and benchmark site demonstrations can be used to effectively disseminate this technology. 

For  successful  promotion  and  adoption  of  this  technology  farmers  need  to  be  sensitized  about  banana farming as a commercial enterprise. Farmers require further sensitization about BXW and its management especially avoiding transmission of the disease through planting materials. There is need for cooperation between  the  policy  makers,  NGOs,  field  extension  workers,  and  local  leaders  in  the  promotion  of  the technology. 

The social, environmental, policy and market conditions are necessary to catalyse cross-border scaling-up of the macro-propagation technology. These were noted to include:  

  • The  farmers  within  the  region  should  understand  the  need  to  use  clean  seed  as  a  method  of preventing BXW disease transmission.  
  • Cross-border policy frameworks to facilitate access to planting material generated through use of macro-propagation techniques should be in place.  
  • Banana production should be considered as business and not for subsistence.  
  • Farmers  should  be  able  to  buy  the  planting  materials  generated  by  macro-propagation  for sustainability.  

Farmers, either individually or as groups should be linked to markets of banana and banana clean planting materials.

Current situation and future scaling up

The technology was demonstrated at two benchmark sites in the Kagera region in Tanzania. Over 20,000 suckers were distributed to farmers and the demand for the planting material was on the increase. There are  still  several  farms  in  and  around  the  bench  mark  sites  which  were  devastated  by  BXW  and  needed replanting  and  there  also  farmers  who  would  wish  to  establish  new  farms.  Farmers  beyond  the  sites  in Tanzania and in the region also require a community based method of assessing clean planting material. Training  of  farmers  and  extensionists  in  methods  of  accessing  banana  planting  material  was  one  of  the activities  implemented.  Intensive  training  was  however  limited  to  farmers  in  and  around  demonstration sites in Tanzania. The farmers from these sites can use/operate and maintain the technology. Farmers from Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Dr Congo and Uganda got the training but did not have hands on experience.

Economic Considerations

According to farmers, from the Bukoba region in Tanzania, a macro-propagation unit can be constructed using about US$ 1000. It was reported that about 2000 plantlets can be harvested annually. Each plantlet was estimated to cost US$ 0.35 and the enterprise can break even in two seasons.

Gender considerations

Women  constitute  a  large  part of  labour  force  that  is  involved  in  banana  production  in  the  ECA.  This technology  is  intended  to  provide  planting  material  for  disadvantaged  women  and  men  in  the  banana farming communities. The scaling-up approaches used such as FFS had equal representation of both men and women.

During the dissemination of the technology, both women  and men played an important role in effecting control measures on their fields and mobilizing communities for BXW control. Women and children were assigned the specific duty of monitoring for infected plants and reporting them to relevant authorities for removal.

Case study or profiles of success stories

Since 2009, Bioversity International  and  ARDI  Maruku  have  been promoting  more  innovative ways of increasing  farmers’  access  to  clean  banana  suckers.  According  to  Dr.  William  Tinzaara,  a  scientist  at Bioversity “when we tell farmers to cut down their  infected mats, we must have a strategy to ensure that they get access to clean materials for replanting and promote banana seedlings production as a business”. Mr.  Edwin  Sarapion  is  a  progressive  farmer  in  Ruhunga  Ward  and  is  one  of  the  20  farmers  who participated in the training offered at ARDI in clean banana seed production. “I was among the group of farmers  trained  on  three  techniques  namely  the  conventional  method,  macropropagation  and decapitation”.  After  the  training,  and  the  een  interest  showed  by  Edwin  in  the  seed  multiplication business,  he  was  supported  by  ARDI  to  construct  a  macropropagation  unit.  He  provided  the  land  and labour  while  ARDI  provided  the  construction  materials  valued  at  Tshs  1,600,00  (Approximately  US$ 1000) and technical expertise. Of the 7 macropropagation units that have been built in the ward, Edwin is a proud owner of one of units.

Application guidelines for the users

The technology requires limited space. Farmers should be able to buy the planting materials generated by macro-propagation  for  sustainability.  Farmers,  either  individually  or  as  groups  should  be  linked  to markets of planting material and of banana.

Contact details

Jerome Kubiriba  
Scientist, National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO)  
P O Box 7084,  
Kampala, Uganda

Mob: 256-0774-246156

Margaret Atieno Onyango  
Scientist, KARI - Kisii Centre,  
P O Box 523 - 40200,  
Kisii, Kenya
Tel +254 202112913,  
Mob: +254 738428110 / +254 712344721
Email: or

Espoir Bisimwa Basengere
Universite Catholique De Bukavu/RDC
Faculte Des Sciences Agronomiques
Laboratoire de Phytopathologie
Via BP: 02 Cyangugu Rwanda
Tél: +243997701265/ +243853710509

William Tinzaara  
Sceintist, Bioversity International  
P.O Box 24384, Kampala, Uganda  
Tel: 256-41-286213  
Fax: 256-41-286949  

James Wanjohi Muthomi  
Scientist, University of Nairobi (UON),  
P.O Box 29053, Nairobi, Kenya.  

Fen Beed  
Scientist, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)  
P.O Box 7878, Kampala, Uganda  

Additional information

Currently,  there  is  no  policy  framework  that regulates  and  promotes  use  of  clean  planting  material  for vegetatively propagated crops. Future activities should provide policy briefs that can guide policy makers in formulating regulations about the technology for disseminating the clean seed. Participatory forums to share  information  on  the  performance  of  the  macro-propagation  technology  transferred  between  target groups and technical persons are currently lacking at local levels. The Banana research network for east and southern Africa (BARNESA) organises biannual meetings attended by regional representatives from research, farmers/farmer groups, NGOs and policy makers.  Matters regarding research and development are discussed during the meetings.

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