Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page



Bananas must not ripen on the plant.
The bunch of fruits finishes ripening
        tied to a rope, in the shade.
If the bunch ripens on the plant,
        the bananas split and become mealy.

Bunches can be kept longer if they are harvested unripe.

Output of a plantation

A well-cared-for plantation
        has a big output.
The third harvest
        on any one plantation
        is the biggest of all.
From the fourth harvest,
        the output begins to go down.

The yield of a plantation
may vary between 30 and 50 tons per hectare.

Use of bananas

Bananas are a strength-giving food.

The sweet banana, eaten raw when it is ripe,
        is as rich as other raw fruits.
It contains a lot of vitamins.
It should be eaten very ripe.

Plantains, when prepared,
        give more energy than prepared cassava.
They contain
        more protein (see Booklet No. 8, page 14) than cassava,
        but less mineral salts (see Booklet No. 1, page 19).
It is better to eat plantains than cassava.

Food crop bananas
        such as plantains and certain fig bananas
        are eaten cooked.
The greener they are when harvested,
        the less sweet they are.

Large quantities of plantains are eaten
        in all the forest regions of west Africa.
Ivory Coast produces about 1 100 000 tons of plantains,
Cameroon about 850 000 tons,
and Gabon about 80 000 tons.

•   Cooked bananas

To make foutou, peel plantains,
     cook them in water,
     then mash them and roll them into balls.

Plantains are also eaten
     grilled over the fire,
     or fried in oil.

•   Dried bananas

•   Bananas can be dried,
          if you cannot sell them all.
    Peel them,
          then slice them into rounds
          and dry them in the sun.
    When they are dry
          they can be made into powder or flour.

•   Banana flour is made with plantains
          or with green fig bananas.
     It is eaten in forest regions.

•   Banana powder is sweet.
          It is made from ripe bananas.
    Mash the bananas
          and dry the paste in the oven.
    Banana powder should be stored in metal boxes
          and kept in a dry place.

•   Making banana beer

The bananas must be very ripe.

In the rainy season
     let them finish ripening laid on a hurdle
     over the fire where the cooking is done.
During the dry season
     make a pit in the ground.
     On one side of it, dig a little ditch.
     Cover all the sides of the pit
          with green banana leaves.
     Pack the bunches of bananas in the pit.
     Cover them with banana leaves and earth.
     Light a fire in the ditch
          and let the warmth and smoke into the pit.
     Keep the fire going every day
          until the bananas are quite ripe.
     his takes about six days.

Then take away the leaves and earth.
Peel the bananas.
Half-fill a hollowed-out tree trunk with banana pulp.
Cover with fine grass.
Knead the pulp with a little water.
Press it and let the juice run out.

Then put the juice in a vat or earthenware jar
     with germinated millet and a little beer.
Cover the vat or the jar
     with grass to act as a filter.

The beer can be drunk the next day
     through a straw or wooden tube.
This beer will not keep for very long.

Banana beer is made chiefly
     in Rwanda and Burundi
     with special varieties of bananas.

•   Other uses of the banana plant

Bananas can be given to animals to eat,
     especially to pigs.
The skins and the male flower buds
     can also be used as fodder.

Oxen like
the chopped-up apparent trunk and leaves
mixed with oil cake.

If you leave the remains of the plants
     (such as apparent trunk, leaves, flower buds)
     on the ground of the plantation,
     they will become organic matter in the soil.
If you take these remains
     away from the plantation
     to give to animals,
     you will not add organic matter to the soil.
     But a banana plantation
     needs plenty of organic matter.
     So if you remove the banana plant remains,
     you must give the plantation
     dried herbage, manure or compost.

Banana leaves contain fibre.
     Sacks and ropes
     are made with this fibre.
It is obtained chiefly
     from a variety of banana called abaca.
The fibres of abaca leaves
     are called “Manila hemp.”

Running a commercial banana plantation

This example of a commercial banana plantation
comes from near Akoupé in southern Ivory Coast:

Every day, new flowers appear on the plants.
On the 5th and 20th of each month,
        the new flowers are counted.
        They are marked
        with a little button tied on with wire.
Buttons of a different colour
        are used each time the flowers are counted.
In this way, the number of new flowers is known.
        In about 3 months
        these new flowers will yield
        a bunch of bananas for harvesting.

The planter knows the number of bunches
        that will ripen
        and can arrange for transport by banana boat.
A banana boat comes
        about twice a week.
        Each time a little of the harvest is sent.

It works like this:
        Suppose the planter has ordered transport
        for 40 tons of fruit during the month.
Then he sees that the fruit will ripen
        before the 15th of the month.
        He asks for transport for 25 tons
        during the first 2 weeks of the month,
        leaving 15 tons
        for the rest of the month.

All the plantation owners belong to a cooperative,
        COFRUCI (Compagnie fruitière de Côte d'lvoire).
It organizes transport in banana boats.

Bananas must be graded by size.
In the plantation
        they use an instrument called a gauge
        to measure the thickness of bananas.

A gauge

Bananas are graded from 40 to 45 millimetres thickness.
        There are two grading systems,
        one with the odd numbers (41, 43 or 45 millimetres)
        and the other with the even numbers
        (40, 42 or 44 millimetres)
When the planter gives his orders for the shipment,
        he can state which system he wants.
For grading,
        three bananas in one hand are chosen
        and each is measured.
The thickness of the bananas on a bunch
        is related to the number of hands on the bunch.
If the bunch has 5 to 7 hands,
        the size of the three bananas measured
        should be 40 or 41 millimetres,
        depending on the chosen grading system.
        If the bunch has 7 to 10 hands,
        the size of each of the three bananas measured
        should be 42 or 43 millimetres.
        If a bunch has more than 10 hands,
        the size of each of the three bananas
        should be 44 or 45 millimetres.

The bunches ready for harvesting
        are known by the colour of the buttons
        with which the bunches were marked 3 months earlier.
The planter says what size fruit he wants picked.
A worker goes through the plantation
        and counts the number of hands on each bunch
        with a button of the right colour,
        measures three bananas on each of the bunches,
        makes sure that the bunch is ready for harvesting,
        and marks the bunch for cutting.
The bunches are cut early in the morning.
This is done one day, at most,
        before the boat leaves.
Men carry the bunches out of the plantation
        on a pad on their backs.
The bunches are tied to long poles supported by trestles.
        The string used for tying
        is soaked in copper sulphate.

Support for bunches

The bunches are weighed.
The coloured buttons are taken off the bunches.
The buttons of one colour, let us say green,
        are then counted.
Three months earlier, 1 600 green buttons
        were fixed to the plants in the plantation.
Now, for example, 360 green buttons are counted.
So the planter knows that he still has
        1 240 bunches marked green (1 600 less 360).
These bunches marked with the green buttons
        will ripen in the course of the month.

Transporting and packing bananas

The goods lorry arrives.
Inside, it has pads along the sides
        to protect the bunches.
On the floor of the lorry
        there is a thick layer of dry leaves.
Each bunch is wrapped
        and a cover is put over each row of bunches.

The lorry drives to the packing station.
There, the size of the bananas is measured again.

All the bunches
        which do not measure up to the required size
        are thrown out.
Stained or rotten bunches are also rejected.

The bunches are cut into hands of bananas
and these hands are cleaned and washed.

The hands of bananas
        are packed in cartons.
Some countries still send out complete bunches,
        but this wastes a lot of space and weight.

The cartons are then taken to the banana boat.

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page