Factors influencing the discontinuance in adoption of tissue culture banana technology: a study of smallholder farmers in Maragwa district
Smallholder farmers in Kenya have been cultivating bananas among other crops such as coffee since the pre-colonial times. Bananas before the 1980s were grown to provide rural households with food. Unlike in other countries where banana is considered a typical export crop, in Kenya banana is grown by peasant farmers for home consumption and for domestic market. The Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) launched a tissue culture project in 1996/97. Since there was a lack of clean planting materials, the main objective of this project was to supply smallholder farmers with pathogen free materials, notably tc-plantlets. Despite the earlier adoption, in 2008, a study by Mbaka et al. (2008) revealed that farmers were discontinuing the technology and reverting to the old practice of obtaining suckers from own orchard or neighbour field. In this regard, it was important to carry out a study and establish why these farmers were discontinuing the technology and reverting to the use of suckers despite the challenges that suckers hold. The specific objectives include: First, to establish the characteristics of the discontinuing farmer; Second, to establish farmers’ reasons for discontinuing the technology; Third, to find out from farmers the advantages of suckers over tissue cultured plantlets and; Lastly, to analyse and establish the most important factors which influence farmers’ discontinuance decision of tc-banana technology. In terms of methodology, this study adopted a case study approach. Case study approach is useful in investigating a contemporary phenomenon in its natural setting (Yin, 2003). This approach was used in order to investigate the phenomenon of discontinuance amongst smallholder banana farmers in Kenya. The main unit of analysis was the smallholder banana farmer. This study was informed by both primary and secondary data. The research started by reviewing relevant documents such as books, newspaper articles, web resources, brochures, reports from various sources. Then, proceeded to collect primary data through the following methods, namely: in-depth interviews, key-informant interviews and personal observation. Two main sampling techniques were used namely: purposive and snowballing sampling. Data was analysed both qualitatively and quantitatively. Whereas quantitative data collected through interviews was cleaned, coded and analysed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS), qualitative data was analysed through thematic analysis. The study found that discontinuance decision is pegged on several factors. This study however categorized the factors into two broad categories, namely: technical and socioeconomic factors. On the one hand, technical factors include factors such as pests and v diseases, labour requirements of the cultivation of tc-bananas and costs of plantlets. On the other hand, the socio-economic factors include factors such as access to credit and information, poor infrastructure and access to markets. The study recommends that farmers be educated to understand and appreciate the benefits of tissue culture technology as a tool for crop propagation. It is also imperative that the potential risks or disadvantages associated with this technology be communicated and carefully explained to the farmers. In this case, the possibility of encountering problems should always be made clear. Without proper communication and transparency, the potential of the technology to improve the lives of the rural poor can be easily be lost.