Bananas have always been a big part of Japhet Bizimungu’s life. As a young man growing up in Karongi, Rwanda, Japhet harvested local kayinja bananas alongside his parents each year. However, the kayinja variety often resulted in disappointingly yields, low in both volume and quality. Unfit for fresh consumption, it was common for farmers in Japhet’s village to use the bananas they grew to brew beer.
When Japhet inherited his parents’ land, he continued to plant the same local banana variety. Like his parents and many of his neighbors, he always wound up using the bananas to brew beer. But the amount of money he earned from selling the beer would never cover the cost of manure he needed to fertilize his bananas, let alone the cost of hiring casual workers to help him harvest the bananas.
“After all my expenses, the money I was earning was so little. That’s why I decided to completely remove these local bananas from my field, and plant new ones,” Japhet says.
After five years, Japhet decided he was tired of never earning enough from his bananas. He had farmed with One Acre Fund, a nonprofit social enterprise, since 2009, purchasing fertilizer, solar lamps, and harvest storage bags on credit from the organization. But in 2014, Japhet decided to try something new. That year, he purchased a new banana variety as part of his One Acre Fund loan package.
The new banana variety Japhet purchased was called FHIA 17. The FHIA 17 banana variety is more multi-purpose than it’s local cousin Kayinja. It can be cooked, brewed for beer, made into juice, or eaten when it’s ripe. FHIA 17 is also more productive than the local banana variety. With the local variety, farmers can expect to harvest 10 to 20 kilograms of bananas per tree. With FHIA 17, farmers can anticipate upwards of 50 kilograms of bananas per tree. Excited by the prospect of an increased yield and bananas that could be put to multiple uses, Japhet purchased five FIA 17 plantlets on credit.
Banana plants take two years to bear fruit, so Japhet has yet to see his first harvest with the new variety. This fact hasn’t tempered his excitement in the least.
“I have had great harvests with beans and maize, so I expect a good harvest for bananas too. My dreams are to harvest one banana that can weight more than one hundred pounds, and never run out of bananas at home.” Japhet explains.
In the years since learning improved planting techniques from One Acre Fund, Japhet has seen his maize and bean harvest increase substantially. With the increased yields of several harvests, he has been able to invest his surplus in his family’s future. He recently built a new home, and is now able to afford the school fees for the three of his sons who are currently in school.
Because of his confidence in One Acre Fund’s loan offerings, Japhet chose to purchase ten additional banana plantlets this season. He sees his future banana harvests as yet another investment in achieving his dreams. Right now, his biggest dream is to see his children graduate.
“I am getting old, so I take great comfort knowing my bananas will help my children complete their studies,” Japhet says.
One Acre Fund staff live and work alongside farmers like Japhet, helping them improve their harvests and grow their way out of hunger and poverty. Apply to join One Acre Fund’s family of leaders today.