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Saturday, November 26, 2016

New research establishes storage temperature for East African highland bananas

By Esther Nakkazi

Margaret Nalujja a trader at Bugolobi market a suburb in Kampala can now earn about 80 percent more from selling East African highland cooking bananas locally known as matooke in Uganda.

“From a cluster of peeled matooke I earn Ush 5,000 while the unpeeled sells for Ush 3,000,” said Nalujja.

Unlike the older generation that has for centuries been preparing matooke through long hours of peeling and steaming in banana leaves most of Nalujja’s clientele who are hotels, bachelors and the young generation want already peeled matooke that they just boil. Supermarkets also prefer it.

Market research under the RTB-ENDURE project has established that Uganda consumers prefer peeled matooke even when it has been under cold storage, said Dr. Enoch Kikulwe, an associate scientist at Biodiversity International of Uganda.

One of the questions that Ugandan farmers also wanted to know under the project was the temperature under which the matooke could be stored without getting spoilt, said Dr. Kikulwe also the team leader of the banana sub-project of RTB-Endure.

“This research has answered this fundamental question for East African highland cooking bananas.”

Scientists have found that both the peeled and unpeeled East African highland cooking bananas can stay for 12 days with no taste or color changes under cold storage of 12-18 degrees centigrade. Most standard fridges offer cold storage of 5-8 degrees centigrade.

Without cold storage the matooke can only stay for 3 days without ripening or rotting.

Bananas occupy 1.3 million hectares nationwide and are grown mainly by subsistence and semi-commercial farmers and it is a staple food for the rural communities. The matooke is a key source of livelihood for over 13 million farmers and a major staple food in Uganda.

A lot of research has been done on increasing the shelf life of other banana varieties like the Cavendish but we did not know what to do with the matooke said Dr. Kephas Nowakunda, the head of the food biosciences and agribusiness research program at the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO)

Dr. Nowakunda explained the other benefits of peeled bananas including leaving the waste on the farm to make manure and reducing rubbish.

The RTB-ENDURE research project has focused on innovations for improved postharvest management and expanded use of the cooking banana, cassava, potato and sweetpotato with an aim to improve food availability and income generation for roots, tubers and bananas producing communities.

RTB crops are essential staple foods in developing countries. They have high nutritional value, they generate income, and they contribute to the sustainability of cropping and production systems.

The RTB-ENDURE project is implemented in Uganda by the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB), led by the International Potato Center (CIP), as part of a larger three year project funded by the European Union with technical support of IFAD.

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