FAO Regional Office for Africa

Supporting Malawi’s banana industry

© FAO

Banana is Malawi’s fourth biggest staple crop, after maize, rice and cassava. With the right investments and strategic support, the banana sector has the potential to provide greater benefits in food and nutrition security and commercial value for growers, transporters, consumers and food processors.

Potential for transformation through OCOP

As part of FAO’s One Country One Priority Product (OCOP) initiative, the Government of Malawi and FAO are building on existing best practices to support further development of the banana value chain. These efforts will focus on:

  • improved banana production technologies;
  • in vitro banana planting materials production;
  • integrated disease and pest management;
  • green processing; and
  • establishing a national banana strategy.

“In this green banana project, Malawi will develop a productive, resilient, efficient and sustainable banana sector that will contribute towards improved food security, nutrition, affordable healthy diets, environmental sustainability, social and gender equity and economic growth. The banana industry will create wealth and jobs for many Malawians and turn the country from a net importer to a net exporter of bananas,” Sam Dalitso Kawale, Minister of Agriculture said.

“Under the Global Action on OCOP, banana has been identified by FAO and the Government of Malawi as the special agricultural product (SAP). Banana brings good contributions to agriculture and food diversification, nutrition improvement and income generation. It benefits all players along the value chain, including producers, processors and traders. It can also set a good example in agricultural productivity and commercialization, which is one of the three pillars of Malawi Vision 2063,” FAO Representative, Zhijun Chen said.

FAO support to Malawi’s banana industry

The last two decades have seen a sharp decline in Malawi’s banana production due to widespread outbreaks of pests and diseases, poor agronomic practices and limited availability of clean planting material. Poor production has negatively affected the whole value chain.  

Against this background, FAO has since 2017 provided technical support to the Government of Malawi to support revitalization of the banana industry. Through donor-funded interventions, support has focused on increasing knowledge and skills on integrated crop management to address holistically the diverse set of challenges which affect banana production. Interventions have also focused on preserving local germplasm and safeguarding existing genetic diversity in order to promote diversification of banana varieties that are well adapted to Malawi’s agroecological conditions. Through these efforts, fifteen banana varieties have been collected and indexed and are being multiplied across districts in Malawi.

Interventions have also aimed at ensuring that smallholder farmers have increased access to and adequate quantities of disease-free planting material and training in disease prevention. Close to 500 government extension workers and 10 600 farmers have been trained.

FAO is also supporting the production of clean planting material to increase farmer access to disease-free banana suckers, allowing scaling-up of production activities. Four institutional orchards and over 40 banana macropropagation chambers have been established in 10 districts across Malawi. Through these, over 344 200 clean banana suckers have been distributed, establishing at least 347 community nurseries covering 309.8 hectares of land.