Bananas are the world’s most popular fruit
Every year, each person in the UK eats 10 kg bananas a year – about 100 bananas! My own consumption is closer to 360 bananas per year. I slice a banana in my breakfast granola every morning. (The missing five to 365 account for poorly planned grocery shopping.)
Worldwide, bananas are the most popular and most traded fruit. In terms of value, bananas are the fourth most traded crop plant after wheat, rice and maize. We like to enjoy them as banana bread, Banana Split, in a fruit salad or as a snack after exercising.
But for millions of people in Asia and Africa, bananas are much more than a delicious fruit snack. For more than 450 million people in developing countries, bananas and plantains are essential staple crops.
Choose your staple – Bread or Banana
What is that actually? A staple crop?
Staple crops are those crop plants from which we derive our main calorie intake. Think bread, pizza, pasta, quiches, cakes, beer and granola and you can easily guess what the staple crop for Europe and the US is. It’s wheat.
In Asia people derive their main energy intake from rice, in Mexico from maize and in Sub-Saharan Africa more than 100 million people rely on (cooking) bananas and plantains as their most important daily food source.
Ugandans eat more bananas than anyone else in the world
Bananas reach their greatest importance in the countries of the East African plateau (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo) bordering Lake Victoria. Annual banana consumption in the Great Lakes area reaches 400-600 kg/per person. Bananas are grown on 20-30% of the area under cultivation and they form the economic backbone of these countries. Banana production is a major income source for small hold farmers mostly grown by women. The – by far – most important banana in this region is not the Cavendish banana – the one that we can find in supermarkets around the world –, but the East African Highland Banana (EAHB). East African Highland Bananas thrive on altitudes between 900 – 2000 meters above sea levels – hence the name. Locally known as Matooke, these bananas can be consumed raw, but are more often cooked and mashed to a thick yellow –well – mash, which is also called Matooke in Uganda. Much like in France where bread is essential part of any meal, in Uganda food is not considered a full meal, if it is served without Matooke.
Matooke is so important that the word itself means “Food”.