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

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Official Pleased With Ebola Containment Measure

Official says three-day sensitization effort will help reduce infection rate of Ebola disease nationwide More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As the tumult in the Middle East distracts Obama, shifting American focus eastward appears threatened 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.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid