News / Africa

Coffee, Bananas Grow Together to Fight Climate Change

Louis Ntiricakeza is one of the few Rwandan farmers already growing coffee underneath bananas, October 2011.
Louis Ntiricakeza is one of the few Rwandan farmers already growing coffee underneath bananas, October 2011.
Heather Murdock

Over the next three to four decades, temperatures in the Great Lakes Region of Central Africa are expected to rise about two degrees Celsius. Scientists say without immediate innovations in farming, crops will be devastated and the region will be thrown into chaos. So Rwanda is experimenting with what is already widely practiced in some neighboring countries. They are growing banana and coffee plants on the same soil to prepare for the new climate in the long term, and to grow the economy in the short term.

Frederick Musangwa has a farm in Rwanda. He grows bananas to eat, and coffee to sell. He cooks over a wood fire, and has no electricity or running water. In the past, he grew food crops to feed his family and sell in the market, and earned about $115 a year from coffee plants.  More recently, he said, he has almost tripled his income from coffee.

Musangwa said he began harvesting more beans after he followed an agriculture expert's advice to plant the coffee directly under his banana trees. He says he is not worried about climate change - he is just trying to make a living.

Innovative farming techniques

But scientists say new agricultural techniques in this region like this one are not just about poverty alleviation - they are a critical component of preventing the region from destruction due to climate change. In one of the most densely populated parts of Africa, temperatures are going up, while the population continues to boom, and more and more erratic weather can be expected.

Sanginga Nteranya, the incoming director general of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, said that if farms systems are overhauled, people will not have to suffer.

“We have to be bold, actually. The consequences are difficult to contemplate because the population growth in this Great Lakes is the highest in Africa. It’s about 500 people per square kilometer and most of the wars that have been happening here is just about that,” said Nteranya.

Efficient land use

In countries like Tanzania and Uganda, farmers already are planting coffee bushes and banana trees on the same land, a technique called “intercropping.” Farmers say the bark from the banana trees serves as fertilizer for the coffee, a cash crop. The leaves shade the coffee from the bright sun, and the bananas feed their families while they wait for the coffee to harvest.

Laurence Jassogne, an agricultural systems scientist with the Consortium for Improving Agriculture-based Livelihoods in Central Africa, said growing coffee and bananas also can - in a small way - help attempts to stave off climate change by reducing carbon emissions.

“We are doing research at that moment that shows - the more shade you put - I know we are talking about bananas, but we are also talking about shade trees - then you also sequester carbon much more - and that’s good for carbon mitigation,” said Jassogne.

Food security concerns

Some officials are not yet convinced and want more research done before Rwandan farmers adopt intercropping as a widespread technique. They say coffee - one of the country’s largest foreign currency earners - is too important to the Rwandan economy to risk it being farmed haphazardly and mixed with other crops.

Burundi also has been reticent to abandon the single-crop policy in favor of banana-coffee farms. Jassonge said the concern is over food security, and farmers may take intercropping as a cue to overrun their coffee fields with food crops.

Marie Claudine Yansoneye is a Rwandan farmer who is not keen on mixing bananas and coffee, October 2011.
Marie Claudine Yansoneye is a Rwandan farmer who is not keen on mixing bananas and coffee, October 2011.

But the technique is not gaining quick acceptance here. Even though farmers like Musangwa are making more money from intercropping, other are more cautious. Marie Claudine Yansoneye grows beans, corn and potatoes - just enough to feed her family in the same neighborhood as Musangwa.

She said it makes sense that people grow crops together, because there is hardly any land. But given a choice, Marie Claudine said, she will always separate her coffee and bananas.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs