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

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital 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.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid