In the phase of increasing population, food prices, food insecurity, and youth unemployment, Ecological Balance Cameroon provided hands-on training on the botany and business of plantain sucker multiplication to some 6 youths in Bomaka-Buea. This experiential learning session, which brought together the young adults from different communities in Buea, September 8, 2022, sought to train those who will in turn transfer the skills to other youths in their communities.
The Executive Director of Ecological Balance Cameroon, Madam Limbi Blessing Tata implored the trainees to take advantage of various business opportunities that exist in the sector.
In Cameroon, especially in the southern regions, plantain farming is one of the major activities carried out on small and large scales for home consumption and commercial purposes respectively. The price of the cash crop has become exorbitant due to increasing population and scarcity of food. ‘’At the Muea market in Buea, a bunch of plantain that was sold at FCFA 3,500 months ago, is now sold FCFA 6,000 or FCFA 6,500,” Mrs. Akeng Ruth, a Muea denizen said. The leaves of the cash crop, used locally in the preparation of delicacies like Achu, Koki, Kwacoco have also become expensive, with a bundle of 3 leaves costing FCFA 500, she added.
Mr. N. Tipar, a student of the Department of Agriculture at the University of Buea, South West Cameroon, says he depends mainly on plantain suckers for his livelihood. ‘’I multiply and sell plantain suckers to farmers. I make about FCFA 2,400,000 ($4000) from plantain suckers every year. I also have a plantain farm where I planted over 1,500 suckers”, Tipar disclosed.
Plantain, Musa paradisiaca (syn. Musa sapientum) is an herbaceous perennial belonging to the family Musaceae. It is a gigantic herb that springs from an underground stem, or rhizome, and grows to 3–10 tall with a sturdy pseudostem and large broad leaves arranged spirally at the top. The leaves are large blades with a pronounced central midrib and obvious veins. They can reach up to 2.7 m in length and up to 0.6 m in width. Each pseudostem produces a group of flowers from which the fruits (which are green to brown-yellow) develop in a hanging cluster(bunches). In commercial plantations, the parent plant dies after harvest and is replaced with a daughter plant.
Plantain is a zero waste plant, and income can be generated from all its parts. The suckers (roots) can be vegetatively propagated and sold, the pseudostem is used in the production of biodegradable pads, the fruits provide a staple food, the leaves are used in the preparation of other meals, and the flowers have been implicated in the traditional treatment of typhoid.
Plantains grow best in hot (>27°C ) and humid (>50% humidity) climates in soil that is well drained & aerated, rich in organic matter soil, with pH between 5.5 to 7.0, requiring rainfall of at least 1000 mm (39.4 in) per year and high light intensity. Plantains are grown mainly from suckers which are vegetatively propagated, and this has been explored as a business opportunity over the years.
After planting, frequent weeding is required until plants are tall enough to shade out competing plants. In about 12-15month after planting, the fruits which are in bunches can be harvested and can be eaten raw or ripened. The fruits can also be transformed to plantain chips, and or plantain flour, increasing the monetary value and shelf life.
By Agborkang Godfred E. .