What future for banana-based farming systems in Uganda? A participatory scenario analysis

E. Ronner*, G.J. van de Ven, K. Nowakunda, J. Tugumisirize, J. Kayiita, G. Taulya, G. Uckert, K.K.E. Descheemaeker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


CONTEXT: Population pressure, land scarcity and encroachment of nature reserves are challenging sustainable intensification of agriculture in Uganda. One of the main staple crops in Uganda is East African Highland banana. Area expansion and improved management have enhanced the economic performance of banana, yet at the expense of food security, environmental and social sustainability. While a transition of banana-based farming systems to a more sustainable future seems necessary, the desired future state and pathways of getting there may differ among actors involved. OBJECTIVES: Our study aimed to co-design potential transition pathways with stakeholders along the banana value chain in Uganda, and to assess the effects of these pathways on sustainability indicators at the household level. METHODS: We conducted a participatory scenario analysis consisting of: 1) stakeholders envisioning and backcasting a sustainable future for two banana-based farming systems in Uganda; 2) researchers developing and quantifying plausible future scenarios to assess their effects on locally-relevant sustainability indicators at the household level; 3) stakeholders reflecting on the results, including synergies and trade-offs between sustainability indicators. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: Stakeholders' envisioned future combined with main trends influencing banana-based farming systems resulted in four contrasting scenarios: Marginalisation (stagnation compared with the reference baseline); Business as usual (extrapolation of historic trends); Intensification (including Integrated Soil Fertility Management and collective marketing of banana); and Transformation (irrigation in banana, balanced crop nutrient management, cooperatives, and increased farm sizes for some as other households leave agriculture). Compared with the current baseline situation, selected sustainability indicators food self-sufficiency and farm gross margins decreased in Marginalisation, but improved in all other scenarios. Soil nutrient balances were unfavourable in all scenarios, except with balanced crop nutrition in Transformation. Stakeholders recognised labour as a main trade-off for desired improvements in other sustainability domains. Stakeholders also reflected on benefits and risks of a continued specialisation in banana, and fiercely debated the desirability of mineral fertilizer use. The active involvement of stakeholders in providing the building blocks for the scenarios, identifying relevant indicators and reflecting on the results, aimed to guide stakeholders on concrete entry points for improving sustainability of the system. SIGNFICANCE: Indications of stakeholder commitment towards a more sustainable future included a convergence of ideas on the need for Integrated Soil Fertility Management, collaboration in cooperatives and the need for savings to overcome risks of specialising in banana. Meanwhile, higher-level advocacy and support is required in decision-making on more complex, long-term challenges.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103669
JournalAgricultural Systems
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


  • Multistakeholder
  • Musa spp.
  • Participatory visioning and backcasting
  • Sustainability assessment


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