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Economic aspects of banana and plantain use in animal feeding: the Cameroon experience
by R.T. Fomunyam


Cameroon produces about 2.3 million tons (Table 1) of plantains and bananas annually (World Bank 1984, Ministry of Agriculture, 1982–83, 1984). Approximately half of this is consumed domestically while less than two fifths is exported. The remaining quantities are either discarded as waste products or are allowed to rot in the fields during harvest. While the plantain and banana fruit is a valuable foodstuff for human consumption, the waste part of it can be fed to livestock. Studies have shown that waste plantain and banana (fruits, stems and leaves) can be used as energy sources for livestock, and in particular during the dry season when there are feed shortages. Unfortunately, however, little is known about the economic benefits that can be obtained from feeding these materials to livestock. This paper examines the economic aspects of using plantains/bananas and their by-products to provide feed for livestock in Cameroon.


The main cost of livestock production is related to the provision of a sustainable energy source. Feed cost account for 60 to 80% of livestock production costs (Ademosun, 1976) and the energy component of feed accounts for 60 to 70% and protein component 14 to 20% of feed costs. Since animals eat primarily to satisfy their energy needs, the energy source must be available, adequate and cheap.

Feed prices can only be low if the prices of the feedstuffs which make up the feed are low. Feedstuffs should therefore be obtained when prices are low and stored for use when needed. Figures 1 and 2 (MIDENO, 1984; FAO-PFLRP, 1990) show that prices are low shortly after harvest in Cameroon. Other means of reducing the cost of feed include the use of unconventional crops produced in excess of human demand, possibly during seasonal gluts, as substitutes for more expensive or unavailable feed items. The development of such technologies could then be adopted in the field.

TABLE 1. Rural production of a variety of energy sources in Cameroon (tonnes)
Crops Provinces
Extreme North North Adamawa East Central South Littoral South West North West Total
Maize 43310 13110 43310 26420 15440 3810 6900 11210 168990 112760 374880
Cocoyams 2 2 2 9840 28260 8340 11540 49330 39860 40330 191800
Cassava 4 4 80 197 374 129 98 304 110 88 1385
Plantains - 4 4 144400 190700 57100 63500 49500 258900 276900 1401600
Bananas - 4 4 42500 116000 21700 46100 219000 198300 206800 850400
Yams 1 1 2 2 18550 2 7860 11200 19780 38140 109420
Irish Potatoes - - - - - - - - 5010 5050 10410

Maize is the staple feed in Cameroon and the competition for maize between humans and livestock is unacceptable. Bananas and plantains are available in Cameroon all year round and can be used to replace maize in animal feeds in Cameroon. The major costs of the use of these materials are transportation, processing and storage since feed grade bananas and plantains can be obtained at almost no cost. Using this technology more meat could be produced from this source of energy in a free market situation. However, in practise meat price fixing usually kills any effort to increase meat production and lack of meat standards and grading does not encourage efficient animal feeding and the maintenance of feed quality.


Feed ingredient shortages cause feed shortages, losses in animal weight and mortalities, particularly in the dry season. This is costly in terms of loss of protein for family consumption and income from the sale of animals. Table 2 shows that with a little effort 276,000 tons of pseudostems worth 5.5 billion FCFA, 69,000 tons of leaf meal worth 22 billion FCFA, 60,650 tons of peels worth 2.4 billion FCFA and about 35.545 tons of waste fruit worth 755 million FCFA could be used each year as animal feed thus ensuring animal feed security in Cameroon.

Increasing the quantity of feedstuff available will ensure better livestock feeding and generate cash revenue from sales of excess feedstuffs. The greatest constraints to putting these feedstuffs on the market are the costs and availability of transportation, processing and storage. Referring to the first constraint, trucks and trains carry cotton and other goods from the Northern part of Cameroon to the south for export and rather than go back empty, could easily transport feedstuffs from the south to the north where the largest number of livestock are raised. The estimated cost of transportation is 20 FCFA/ton. With regard to processing, this cost could be kept low since Cameroon has plenty of free and cheap sunshine to dry livestock feed grade bananas and plantains and by-products during the dry season.

TABLE 2. Quantities and costs of banana feedstuffs in Cameroon
  Yield (000 tons) Dry matter feedstuff quantities
Pseudostems Leaves Peels Waste Fruit
Plantains 2,000 240,000 60,000 48,000 32,610
Bananas 300 36,000 9,000 7,000 2,935
TOTAL 2,300 276,000 69,000 55,500 35,545
Cost/kg (FCFA)   20 33 39 21
Number of persons employed   315 88 645 378

In the wet season wood is available and the technology of cocoa drying could readily be applied to banana/plantain processing. The process would provide employment for many unemployed Cameroonians. Table 2 shows that a total of 1,421 persons earning the minimum wage of 23,000 FCFA each per month could be employed yearly on processing, thus introducing about 392 million FCFA into the rural economy.


In this experiment forty-eight pigs were used in an experimental trial in which sun-dried waste banana meal replaced maize at 10, 20 and 30% levels in test diets (Table 3) (adapted from Fombad, 1984).

Chemical composition of vitamin/mineral premix: “A vitamin/mineral premix manufactured by BEMIS CO. Inc. Mass. USA to contain: Calcium 27%, phosphorus 10%, Iron 0.60%, Zinc 0.35%, Manganese 0.24%, Copper 0.06%, Iodine 0.002%, Cobalt 0.0026%, Selenium 0.004%, and, per kilogramme: Vitamin A (USP units) 220,000, Vitamin D (USP units) 66,000, Vitamin E (IV units) 440, Vitamin K (mg) 88, Vitamin B12 (mg) U.79, Niacin (mg) 1122, Pantothanic acid (mg) 550, and Riboflavin (mg) 132”.

Results in Table 4 show a dry matter feed intake of 2.27, 2.32, 2.34 and 2.33 kg corresponding to daily weight gains of 0.54, 0.55, 0.54 and 0.53 kg/pig/day. Although feed conversion increased as the level of bananas increased, no significant differences were seen between the diets. Analysis of costs and returns using prevailing market prices showed that daily feed costs declined with increasing levels of banana meal in test diets. This indicates that apart from adequately replacing maize the banana meal also reduced the feed cost of the grower pig feed at all the levels tested.

In terms of net returns over feed costs, incorporating banana in pig diets at the 10% level gave a slightly higher return of 38,258 FCFA compared to 37,601 and 37,235 FCFA for the 20% and 30% levels of banana inclusion.

TABLE 3. Percent composition of grower pig diets containing sundried waste bananas
Feed ingredient Diet 1 Diet 2 Diet 3 Diet 4
Maize 60.00 50.00 40.00 30.00
Banana meal = 10.00 20.00 30.00
Brewers dried grains 9.25 8.25 7.25 6.25
Palm kernel cake 6.00 6.00 6.00 6.00
Fish meal 3.50 3.50 3.50 3.50
Palm oil 2.00 2.00 2.00 2.00
Bone meal 1.00 1.00 1.00 1.00
Cotton seed cake 17.00 18.00 19.00 20.00
Dicalcium phosphate 0.50 0.50 0.50 0.50
Vitamin/mineral premix 0.25 0.25 0.25 0.25
Salt 0.50 0.50 0.50 0.50
  100.00 100.00 100.00 100.00
Cost FCFA/kg 71.5 68.8 66.8 64.4
Calculated analysis:        
Energy (kcal/kg DE) 3263.22 3304.36 3345.50 3386.72
Crude protein (%) 19.5 19.22 19.02 19.00

From the results shown in Table 3, it is clear that 30% banana meal can be safely consumed by pigs. At the current time it is estimated that 10,000 tons of waste banana dry matter could be produced in the country. If this were used at the 30% level in pig grower diets it would enable the production of an additional 2,000 tons of pork sold at the prevailing market price of 1,000 FCFA/kg pork to total 2 billion FCFA. However, if increased waste banana were available and with a national pig population of 439,000 in the country, eating about 2 Kg feed per day, in which 30% banana meal could replace part of the 60% maize component, for 150 days this would save 79,000 tons of maize worth 7.9 billion FCFA. This could be used by humans, used for other livestock production e.g. poultry or be exported to generate revenue.

TABLE 4.Feed intake and weight gains of pigs fed sun-dried banana meal
Characteristics Diet 1 Diet 2 Diet 3 Diet 4
Daily feed intake (kg/animal) 2.27 2.32 2.34 2.33
Daily weight gains (kg/animal) 0.54 0.55 0.54 0.53
Feed conversion ratio 4.20 4.21 4.33 4.39
Feed costs (FCFA/animal) 15.905 15.640 15.319 14.705
Returns from sales (FCFA) 52.920 53.900 52.920 51.940
Returns over feed costs (FCFA) 37.015 38.258 37.601 37.235


Use by Ruminants

Banana/plantain pseudostems, leaves and peels though low in energy and deficient in most nutrients can be converted into meat by ruminants with appropriate supplementation. In a trial, sun-dried banana forage (pseudostems and leaves) was fed ad libitum to four lots of bulls. The first lot of 3 bulls received no protein supplementation with while the other three lots ate banana forage supplemented with 750 g/day/bull cotton seed cake; 1500 g/day/bull of dried leucaena leaves and 500 g each of cotton seed cake and Leucaena leaves/day/bull respectively.

TABLE 5. Costs and returns of fattening bulls with banana forage supplemented with leucaena leaf and cotton seed cake
Characteristics Type of protein supplementation
None Cotton seed cake Leaucaena Leaves Leucaena and cotton seed cake
Daily gain (g) 8.9c 142.8bc 417.4a 357.1ab
Daily feed intake (g/bull/day) 3.08 3.30 3.39 3.55
Daily protein intake (g/bull) 240 573.8 615.9 590.53
Feed costs (FCFA/bull) 6,921 10,503 10,990 10,812
Returns over feed costs (FCFA) -0.9 18.1 57.2 48.5

a,b,c Significant at P<0.05

Source: Beramgoto (1989)

The results of the trial are given in Table 5 and show that significantly more weight was gained by bulls fed the leucaena supplemented diet, followed by bulls fed the combination of leucaena leaves and cotton seed cake; the lowest gain was by bulls fed only the mineral supplemented forage diet. The costs of the non-protein supplemented diet were lower (6,921 FCFA) than the other diets which were similar in price (10,503, 10,998 and 10,812 FCFA respectively). Returns over feed costs were greatest for animals fed the diet supplemented with leucaena (57.2 FCFA/day) followed by those fed the leucaena/cotton seed cake supplement (48.5 FCFA) and least for bulls fed the cotton seed supplemented diet. (18.1 FCFA). Animals fed the non-protein supplemented forage registered a net negative return.

As mentioned earlier if this forage could be sent to the northern part of Cameroon, great savings in terms of animal losses, spread of disease and waste of human labour could be avoided and particularly at periods of transhumance. It is also estimated that an additional 1,300 tons of beef worth 13 billion FCFA could be produced if this were to take place.

Another very important benefit would be releasing the pressure on the already over-grazed pasture in the northern part of the country. Degraded pastures result in eroded soils, advancement of the desert and invasion of pastures by unwanted weeds; a very expensive price that Cameroon cannot and will never be able to afford to pay.

Use by Rabbits

The provision of adequate supplies of fibrous feeds for feeding rabbit is difficult to achieve all year round. In a trial (Fomunyam, 1985) 42 rabbits were fed test diets (Table 6) which contained either 30% sun dried banana leaves, 30% fresh banana leaves or a 30% combination of the fresh and dry leaves.

Results (Table 7) showed that there was no significant difference in weight gains of rabbits fed the three diets. However, daily feed intake was significantly higher (67.4 g/rabbit) for animals fed fresh leaves compared to 53.8 g/rabbit for those fed the combination of leaves and 44.6 g/rabbit for those fed the diet with dry leaves. The results also show that although there was no difference in feed costs, the net returns over feed costs were highest (35.072 FCFA) for rabbits fed dry leaves, followed by 28,879 FCFA for rabbits fed fresh leaves and 20,730 FCFA for rabbits fed the mixture. One rabbit died in the group fed the combination of leaves thus accounting for lower net returns for this group.

In backyard production systems banana leaves can be harvested from plants around the home which involves no extra costs of transportation, processing or labour.


Greater animal feed security and increased and lower cost meat production are possible in Cameroon if waste bananasplantains and their by-products are used. The processing of these feedstuff would also provide employment and cash revenue to the rural economy. The environmental benefits from stall feeding this feedstuff also look very promising.

TABLE 6.Composition of Rabbit Diets containing Banana/Plantain leaves
Feed ingredients Form of leaf
Dry Fresh Fresh & Dry Banana/Plantain leaves
Dry banana/plantain leaves 30.0 = 15  
Fresh banana/plantain leaves = 30.0 15.0  
Rice bran 4.0 4.0 4.0  
Brewers dried grains 9.0 9.0 9.0  
Corn 33.7 33.7 33.7  
Palm oil 2.0 2.0 2.0  
Blood meal 3.0 3.0 3.0  
Palm kernel cake 3.0 3.0 3.0  
Cotton seed cake 13.0 13.0 13.0  
Vitamin/mineral premix 0.3 0.3 0.3  
Bone meal 1.5 1.5 1.5  
Salt 0.5 0.5 0.5  
  100.0 100.0 100.0  
Calculated analysis:        
Energy (Kcal/kg) 2570 2570 2570 338.4
Dry matter (%) 98.0 04.9 95.3 20.0
Crude protein (%) 15.7 15.7 15.7 3.6
Crude fibre 8.2 8.2 8.2 12.0
Cost/kg feed (FCFA) 88.0 88.0 88.0 20.0

TABLE 7. Performance and Economic data for rabbits fed diets containing banana/plantain leaf
Characteristics Form of leaf  
Dry Dry & Fresh Fresh SEM
Total feed cost (FCFA) 25,968 38,350 31,261  
Cost/kg weight gain (FCFA) 1,971x 3,012y 2,470z 0.08**
Total number of live rabbits 15 14 15 0.01
Final live weight of rabbits 2.01 2.13 2.00 0.03
Total revenue (FCFA) 61,040 59,080 60,140 0.02
Net returns over feed 35,072z 20,730x 28,879y 0,01**

+ 1 Kg of rabbit live weight sells for 2,00 FCFA within rows

xyz means bearing the same superscript are not significant at P<0.001

** Significant at P<0.01


Ademosun, A.A. 1976. Livestock Production in Nigeria: Our Commission and Omission. University of Ife Press. Ile-Ife Nigeria.

Beramgoto, T. 1989. The feeding value of some agro-industrial by-products for beef cattle at Bambui Centre. In Overcoming constraints to the efficient utilization of agricultural by-products as animal feed. Proceedings of fourth workshop of the African Research Network for Agricultural by-products (ARNAB). Said and Dxowela, ed. ILCA, Addis Ababa Ethiopia.

FAO-PFLRP. 1990. Local market prices of the North West Province. Bamenda, Cameroon.

Fombad, R.B. 1984. Annual Report of Institute of Animal Research. Mankon, Cameroon.

Fomunyam, R.T. 1985. Cabbage and banana/plantain leaf in rabbit diets. Science and Technology Review 1 (2): 13–19.

MIDENO. 1984. North-West Development Authority Report. Ministry of Agriculture, Bamenda, Cameroon.

Ministry of Agriculture. 1982–83. Annuaire des statistiques des organismes des production agricoles. Ministry of Agriculture, Yaounde, Cameroon.

Ministry of Agriculture. 1984. Cameroon Agricultural Census. Ministry of Agriculture Yaounde, Cameroon.

World Bank. 1984. World Develop ment Report. Oxford University Press, London.



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