Hortinet to revolutionalise sustainable horticulture value chain in Malawi

A Lilongwe-based upcoming social enterprise, Hortnet  is revolutionalizing a more inclusive and sustainable horticulture value chain in Malawi mainly in its supply chain.

Banana plants
Production of banana fruits

Speaking on the sidelines of inspecting the first Tissue Culture Laboratory as one way of resuscitating the banana industry in country, Hortnet Managing Director Frankie Washoni said they intend to operate its own network of distribution and negotiates production contracts with small-scale farmers.

The laboratory has been constructed with assistance from Hivos.

The enterprise cultivates Bananas and other vegetables for the urban market up the value chain and it intends to expand its product portfolio from fresh produce to value added through modern solar drying technology.

“We want to improve access of clean planting materials for crops like bananas, Potatoes and Pineapples which is the current biggest challenge small holder farmers are facing that’s why we have constructed a laboratory which will help to fully commercialize the banana value chain in Malawi.

“Production of banana fruits for sale in local markets is among the few agricultural activities that provide households, especially the rural poor, with regular income throughout the year. The crop is predominantly grown by small-scale farmers both as a source of income and as a household food security crop,” said Washoni

While the foregoing scenario depicts the economic and food security potential of banana, Washoni said the production and marketing of the crop in Malawi takes place in a context characterized by lack of a supportive policy environment and institutional arrangements to optimize outputs.

According to Ministry of Agricuture, Malawi has lately has lost over 30000 hectares of banana crop stand, representing 90% of the total area that was under banana production, all this due to poor agricultural practices, diseases and luck of access to clean planting material.

Currently, over 80% of the banana fruits consumed in Malawi come from neighboring countries, Tanzania and Mozambique, further draining the scarce foreign exchange reserves.

Following this rapid decline in banana production, food, employment and income security for over 500,000 households in the banana producing areas of the country have been seriously threatened.

The major problem now affecting the production of banana as a potentially reliable food and commercial crop is the high infestation with various pests and diseases.

The condition is aggravated by traditional practices of exchanging planting materials. In this way pests and diseases are easily transmitted from one farm to another and this has been observed to reduce national banana yields up to 90%. Currently efforts to rejuvenate the banana industry in Malawi are proving difficult due to lack of clean planting (disease & pests free) material.

To help farmers with clean planting material the Ministry of Agriculture has on different occasions imported the banana tissue culture plants from South Africa and France, but this has proved to be expensive.

Unavailability to access clean planting materials for banana growers in Malawi constitutes a priority problem since banana contributes to the livelihoods of many as well as the nutritional needs, employment and income for nearly over one million people in the country.

“Diffusion of this new technology (use of tissue culture-banana plantlets) is so far the only way that can resuscitate the banana industry in Malawi which is currently relying on imports from neighboring countries, Tanzania and Mozambique,” said Washoni

This tissue culture technology has been fully commercialized in banana exporting countries such as South Africa and other East African countries.

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