In Uganda where more than 75 percent of farmers grow the crop, Matoke, cooked from green banana, is the staple food. Scientists in Uganda and other countries in East Africa have therefore been breeding banana mainly to improve its fruit yields.
But now they are looking into ways of obtaining industrial products such as ethanol and fibre for processing hair braids from banana stems as well.
At Uganda’s National Agricultural Research Laboratories (NaRL), reputed for its banana research, they are adding value to the East African highland banana by processing bioethanol products, hair braids, banana lint as well as banana starch for pharmaceutical industries from banana stems.
Yusufu Mukasa, a food chemist at the Food Processing Technology and Incubation Centre at NARL in Kawanda, said his team of scientists have been working with farmers over a period of two years on a project to process ethanol from banana stems. Most farmers in the country’s banana-growing Central and Western regions grow East African Highland banana varieties namely Naroban 6H and 7H, M9, Nakitembe and Nakabululu.