Having a small piece of land has not stopped Patrick Musamula, 61, a resident of Vihiga, from practising banana farming.
The farmer grows the crop on part of his 0.9 acres and for three years, he has directed all his efforts towards banana farming.
Currently, he has 32 stems of the Fhia-17, Valery and Grand Nain varieties.
Mr Musamala, a former forester in Kitui, says he switched to bananas after realising he would make more from the fruit than maize.
“I realised that from a land that would give me a 90kg bag of maize selling at Sh3,500, I could plant six banana plants that yield more,” he adds.
Since he started farming in 2016, he boasts of having harvested more than 60 bunches of bananas.
His love for banana farming arose from scarcity of land, which is synonymous with Vihiga.
“Here, we have very small pieces of land, thus planting maize does not make economic sense,” he says, noting he got seedlings courtesy of the county government.
“I sell each of the bananas at between Sh1,000 and Sh1,500. There is a ready market and I have been lucky that I harvest off-season,” he says.
To grow the crop, Mr Musamala dug 32 holes and put in a wheelbarrow of farmyard manure.
“Apart from that, I also put in the hole DAP fertiliser before planting the crop,” he says. Musamala’s aim is to show people how a small land could be utilised to give high banana yields.
He also sells pre-treated banana suckers at Sh300 and tree seedlings, which he also propagates, at Sh50 each.
Prof Mathews Dida from Maseno University, however, advises that one should be careful when saving space especially when planting bananas.
“Too much overcrowding will affect the production of your crops and even the quality. You should be careful to maintain the standard spacing,” adds Prof Dida.
Normally, spacing depends on the cultivar or the type of the banana, according to Prof Dida. For instance, Cavendish needs 2.5x2.5m because it does not grow very deep.
Giant Cavendish is mostly planted in a spacing of 3x4m, because they are medium growing in terms of height.
Fhia 17 and 23, Grand Nain and Gros Michel bananas should be planted at 4x4m due to their height.
Even though Musamula’s main goal of venturing into banana farming is getting income out of it, he says his focus now is to help other farmers with small pieces of land, get more yields from the crop.
He runs a training programme on his farm, offering tutorials on banana farming.
“I usually talk to people about bananas and show them systematic ways to plant this crop, as well as the economic value of bananas,” he explains.