Monoculture Farming Part 2: Case study of Killer Bananas (1)

Disclaimers: Some of you may find the photo disturbing, so please proceed with care and discretion. 

As promised, this post will look at the environmental pollution caused by banana cropping and discuss the health effects of such causes of pollution have on the banana farmers.

Background information about Banana as a commodity:

Of the agricultural products, the banana is the fourth most important food product within the least developed countries, being the staple food for some 400 million people. Of all the fruits, it holds first place by production volume and is among the five most consumed fruits (FAOSTATS, 2005) . Latin America and the Caribbean supply more than 80% of exports. Many of these countries are highly dependent on bananas for a significant part of their foreign income, which can lead up to 20%.

While the African region produces the biggest share of Bananas, the top 3 producers are India, China and Brazil

Global Banana Production share 2012 FAOSTAT While the African region produces the biggest share of Bananas, the top 3 producers are India, China and Brazil

On many banana plantations, fungicides and insecticides are applied as many as forty times a year, amounting to a total use of nearly 44 kilograms per hectare (IBID, accessed 2015).

Why is there a need to apply fungicides and insecticides so vigorously?

The cultivation of bananas for export is delicate and costly because the plant is very fragile.  It is susceptible to diseases and fungal-growth. The latter became a prominent problem in the 1990s, when the farmers realised that the Banana was no longer soft-bearing, and instead rotting into fibrous mass (Quartz, 2014).

The Fungus Strain Tropical Race 4, a deviant of the Pananma Disease, affecting the growth of Cavendish Banana in Mozambique

This pathogen is extremely contagious. Soil and agricultural machinery stained with TR4 are capable of transmitting this pathogen to the future batches of Bananas that are grown on the soil, or harvested with the machinery. It is also very persistent, meaning that it could stay in the soil for approximately 40 years (Viljoen. A, 2014). The vulnerability of the Bananas to be susceptible to such Fungal growth necessitates the frequent application of fungicide and also pesticides to minimise the potential of the vessels (soil, machinery, insects) to be stained with the pathogen. Apart from the fungicides, herbicides such as paraquat are often used to eliminate weeds.

That will be all for today. I have exceeded the word limit, so stay tune to Part 2 cont, which will continue with the sil pollution caused by the use of chemicals on the plantation, and the health effects on the farmers. 😀

Check out some of these links to get more insights about Killer Bananas!

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2984095/
  2. http://www.unctad.info/en/Infocomm/AACP-Products/COMMODITY-PROFILE—Banana/
  3. http://qz.com/164029/tropical-race-4-global-banana-industry-is-killing-the-worlds-favorite-fruit/  (this is a great blog!)
  4. http://www.clubofmozambique.com/solutions1/sectionnews.php?secao=business&id=2147485738&tipo=on
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