Plantain, the challenge of producing more, without pesticides

The African plantain leaves produce 10 million tons each year. But it would take twice as much to meet demand. So how do you produce more, in a motivated way? This is the challenge launched by several partners.

It would take 20 million tonnes of plantain leaves to meet consumer demand for alloco, missole or even cooked plantain leaves on the African continent. Twice as much as it is produced today. In Central and West Africa, demand is permanent, especially in Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire. And as a result, out of harvest periods, consumers are forced to follow a dry diet while looking for substitutes such as European cereals. During peak production, on the other hand, there is an abundance and losses are inevitable.

The challenge is therefore to be better able to preserve the fruit with the help of storage or processing infrastructures, to turn it into a dry product, such as flour or chips. And at the same time increase volumes: the market to be taken is huge.

Production must change scale but not at any priceBut how do you widen the small perimeters of the home gardens where plantain leaves grow in conjunction with the cocoa tree, cassava or even peanut, usually without pesticides? How do you switch to large-scale cultivation without ending up with the exaggeration of conventional intensive agriculture? This is the question that several experts have been working on for several years, and which has found an answer through the initiative for ecological intensification of plantain leaves in Africa (IPA), which was launched in March. A project launched by CIRAD (Center for International Cooperation in Agronomic Research for Development) and several partners aimed at uniting actors in African sectors, and above all to convince institutions and producers that it is possible to develop a high-performing, profitable and respectful of the environment.

Plantain leaves intended for the local market can do without pesticidesCharacteristic of plantain leaves is that it is intended for a local market, and that it has no obligation to meet the standard required for export to Europe. At most, the fruits travel by truck for subregional trade. “Growing a fine product calibrated with pesticides is therefore not justified”, explains a specialist in the sector, Sylvain Dépigny, facilitator for the plantain banana sector at CIRAD.

For consumers, it is also an economic issue. The price of plantain leaves can be multiplied by seven in production areas in times of shortage. More plantain leaves, for a longer period of the year, would guarantee lower and more stable prices.

Click here to see the list of IPA initiative partners

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