Socio-cultural factors influencing farmer use of tissue culture banana seed in Central Uganda
Banana, a major food and income security crop in Uganda is severely threatened by the Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW) disease. Use of disease-free planting material such as tissue culture (TC) banana is a key intervention in control of the disease. Whereas TC banana seedlings have been promoted for more than a decade, the uptake is low (at only 7%). This has been attributed to economic factors, mainly the cost of seedlings but this does not take into account the socio-cultural issues around banana. Banana in Central Uganda and in the Baganda culture is not only a staple food, it also serves several cultural purposes. This study investigated how the biotechnology generated TC banana seed fits the socio-cultural context of the Baganda culture in Central Uganda. Specifically, the study; (i) established the socio-cultural fit of TC banana seed in Central Uganda; (ii) determined the influence of farmer perceptions on intentions to use the TC banana plantlets in Central Uganda and (iii) identified factors that influence uptake of TC banana seed among smallholder farmers in Central Uganda. A mixed methods research design was used employing both qualitative and quantitative data methods. Qualitative data were obtained from ten key informant and eight focus group discussions; and quantitative data were generated by two surveys one involving 64 and another 248 respondents from Mukono and Luweero districts. Results differentiate three major purposes of banana; as food, cultural artefact and medicine. Specific varieties are associated with each of those functions. However, the range of varieties supplied through TC technology are largely the commercial ones and do not meet the diverse socio-cultural functions of banana. The farmers therefore mix the TC banana plantlets and the local suckers in the same garden thereby facilitating cross-infection and defeating the intention of controlling BXW. The banana varieties supplied through TC are not the most preferred for home consumption though they yield big bunches good for the market. Farmers perceive TC banana to be genetically modified and they are therefore considered not fit for medicinal and cultural practices. Further, TC banana are considered unsustainable in the context of declining soil fertility and frequent droughts due to climate change. Growing TC banana requires new knowledge and management practices that farmers are not accustomed to. Farmer intentions to use TC planting materials is dependent on social influence (β = 0.432; P< 0.01) as the major predictor and farmer innovativeness (β = 0.095; P< 0.05) as a mediating factor. The findings also reveal that TC seed acceptability (β= 0.74; P<0.01), adaptability (β= 0.69; P<0.01) and availability for farmer (β= 1.04; P<0.01), farmer competences and socio-economic factors positively influence farmer uptake of banana TC seed. Uptake intensity is mainly influenced by TC seed acceptability (β= 0.39; P<0.05), accessibility (β= 0.39; P<0.01) and farmer competences. Use of the TC plantlets is still contentious among farmers and therefore mass sensitization and social influence through community opinion leaders, faith-based leaders and farmer groups is critical in influencing farmer perceptions to adopt TC banana. Promoting TC banana requires that the technology is accompanied with a package of information including among other things the soil fertility requirements, agronomic practices and disease management. To aid uptake, the promoters of TC banana will need a sound communication strategy that addresses the myths and perceptions on TC and widen the range of varieties supplied through TC to suit the diverse uses (beyond food) of banana and preferences in the Baganda culture.