Project Report: Riverside Farm Banana Extension

In 2009, Riverside Farm Institute in Zambia, Africa, was granted ASI special project offering funds of $30,000 for the purpose of extending its banana plantation.

Riverside Farm has always been associated wtih bananas, as they grow well and produce good income for our ministry. Currently, we have about 25,000 banana stations that are producing and helping to fund the education, evangelism and campus departments.

Of this latest donation, most of the funds (US $23,450.17) have been used. They went first and foremost (US $16,375) to the purchase of a new irrigation scheme that has been designed to be modularly expandable over the years. The irrigation scheme was purchased from Hydespray, the company that has provided our previous system. We have been satisfied with their services and were able to import all the material vat and duty free.

For disease control reasons, we decided to start the plantation in the far western portion of the plantation layout. This gives the new plantation the maximum distance possible from the existing plantation so as to reduce the risk of early reinfection with the banana bunchy top virus that caused us to lose the existing plantation in 2005. As the acreage is growing, the banana field will move more to the east toward the existing production sites.

The system is a so-called microspinner irrigation. This helps in creating an ideal climate (better than drip irrigation because of more humidity), allowing us to add the fertilizers into the water. The piping received was for 50,000 m2 (about 12 acres), allowing us to plant more on the existing irrigation scheme in October (the next suitable time for planting bananas in Zambia) without having to import piping at that stage.

Aside from this, we also purchased 4,000 new, virus-free tissue cultured plants from DuRoi Laboratories in South Africa. This is a new non-genetically modified improved Williams variety that should be robust and perform well under the Zambian climatic conditions.

The irrigation trenches were dug by hand in November and December 2009. The piping was done in early January 2010, and planting commenced around January 15. We now have 4,000 new plants growing in the field. They should be ready for the first harvest in 2011.

Given that the system was designed to run off the existing filter bank and fertigation pumps, this has greatly reduced the initial investment costs. We have already started to fertigate the plants (application of fertilizer through the irrigation water) for higher efficiency.

Bananas are heavy feeders and need plenty of fertilizer to build a vigorous canopy and plant stand for a good first crop. Thereafter, the plantation recycles some of the nutrients that are not exported with the harvest when the plants are cut. The remainder of the funds (US $6,549.83) will be used for the fertilizer and further planting in October.

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