East African Highland bananas

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East African Highland bananas
A bunch of East African Highland bananas
Species Musa acuminata
Cultivar group Musa acuminata (AAA-EA) or the Mutika/Lujugira subgroup of the AAA Group[1]
Origin Uganda
Cultivar group members See text

East African Highland bananas (EAHB) are triploid banana cultivars originating from the African Great Lakes region. They are a staple food crop in Uganda, Tanzania[2] and other Great Lakes countries, and are used to make matoke.

East African Highland bananas are also known as the Mutika/Lujugira subgroup.


East African Highland bananas are easily distinguishable from other banana cultivars by the numerous black (or more rarely brown or bronze) blotches on their pseudostems, giving them the appearance of polished metal. The outermost sheath of their pseudostems are a medium green, superimposed over the pink to purple underlying sheaths.[3]

Their leaves are also darker green and dull, a difference more apparent when comparing them side by side with other banana cultivars from a distance.[3]

The inflorescence has peduncles covered with coarse hair. The bracts are ovate to lanceolate in shape with outer surfaces that are purple to brown and inner surfaces which are red fading to yellow towards the base. The male flowers have cream colored tepals with yellow lobes. The anthers are pink while the stigma are orange.[3]

The fruits are recurved and can vary in length. They are inflated with blunt tips. The pulp is white in unripe fruits and cream-colored in ripe fruits.[3]


East African Highland bananas are triploid (AAA) cultivars. Their official designation is Musa acuminata Colla (AAA-EA). Synonyms include Musa brieyi De Wild. Their paternal parent is the blood banana subspecies (M. acuminata ssp. zebrina) of the wild banana species Musa acuminata.[1]

East African Highland bananas are a subgroup which refers to about 200 individual banana cultivars (or clones).[1] They can be subdivided into five distinct groups of clones known as clone sets:

  • Mbidde or beer clone set
The Mbidde clone set contains 14 cultivars. Mbidde means 'beer', and clones belonging to this clone set are usually used for making banana beer.[4] Their pulp is bitter and astringent with sticky brown excretions.[3]
  • Nakitembe clone set
  • Nakabululu clone set
Nakabululu clones are soft-textured and savory. They mature quickly, but their fruits are smaller and have lesser overall yields per bunch.[5]
  • Musakala clone set
Musakala clones are characterized by slender fruits with bottle-necked tips. Other characteristics are the same as the preceding three clone sets.[3]
  • Nfuuka clone set
Nfuuka clones are characterized by inflated, rounded, or almost rectangular fruits with intermediate-shaped tips. The bunch shape is mainly rectangular. Other characteristics are the same as the other clone sets.[3] It is the most diverse of the five clone sets, a probable result of its tendency to mutate more frequently. They bear heavy compacted bunches and are thus more often exploited commercially than other clone sets.[5]

Over 500 local names are known for cultivars from the EAHB subgroup.[6]

Origin and distribution[edit]

East African Highland bananas were introduced early into Africa from Southeast Asia during the first to sixth centuries AD, probably via trade. They are genetically distinct from the other AAA cultivars, having evolved locally in the African Great Lakes region for over a millennium. They are found nowhere else in the world, and the African Great Lakes has been called the secondary center of banana diversity because of this (with Southeast Asia being the first). East African Highland bananas are considered to be especially diverse in Uganda, Burundi, and Rwanda.[1][4] However, genetic analysis has revealed that all East African Highland bananas are genetically uniform, having most likely originated from a single ancestral clone that underwent population expansion by vegetative propagation.[7]

Economic importance[edit]

East African Highland bananas are one of the most important staple food crops in the African Great Lakes region, particularly for Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi. and Rwanda. Per capita annual consumption of bananas in Uganda is the highest in the world at 0.70 kg (1.5 lb) daily per person.[8] Including Rwanda and Burundi, consumption is about 250 to 400 kg (550 to 880 lb) per person annually (about three to 11 bananas each day).[9] Uganda itself is the second-largest producer of bananas in the world. It is, however, one of the smallest exporters, the crops being used mostly for domestic consumption.[8]

East African Highland bananas are so important as food crops, the local name matoke (or more commonly matooke) is synonymous for the word "food" in Uganda. Also, a portion of the East African highland bananas locally known as "mbidde" is used to produce juice/beer.[10][11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Randy C. Ploetz; Angela Kay Kepler; Jeff Daniells; Scot C. Nelson (2007). "Banana and plantain — an overview with emphasis on the Pacific island cultivars" (PDF). Species Profiles for Pacific Island Agroforestry. Traditional Tree Initiative. Retrieved June 5, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Tanzania Statistical Abstract". www.nbs.go.tz. Retrieved 2017-03-28. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Deborah Karamura; Barbara Pickersgill (1999). "A classification of the clones of East African Highland bananas (Musa) found in Uganda" (PDF). Plant Genetic Resources Newsletter. Bioversity International & Food and Agriculture Organization (119): 1–6. Retrieved June 16, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b A.K. Tugume; G.W. Lubega; P.R. Rubaihayo (2002). "Genetic diversity of East African Highland bananas" (PDF). Infomusa. Bioversity International. 11 (2): 28–32. Retrieved June 16, 2011. 
  5. ^ a b G. Nantale; E.K. Kakudidi; D.A. Karamura; E. Karamura; G. Soka (2008). "Scientific basis for Banana Cultivar Proportions on-farm in East Africa". African Crop Science Journal. African Crop Science Society. 16 (1): 41–49. ISSN 1021-9730. Retrieved June 16, 2011. 
  6. ^ "Banana cultivar checklist on ProMusa". Retrieved 28 May 2014. 
  7. ^ Kitavi, Mercy; Downing, Tim; Lorenzen, Jim; Karamura, Deborah; Onyango, Margaret; Nyine, Moses; Ferguson, Morag; Spillane, Charles (2016-01-08). "The triploid East African Highland Banana (EAHB) genepool is genetically uniform arising from a single ancestral clone that underwent population expansion by vegetative propagation". Theoretical and Applied Genetics. 129: 547–61. doi:10.1007/s00122-015-2647-1. ISSN 1432-2242. PMID 26743524. 
  8. ^ a b Robert Kalyebara; Jackson M. Nkuba; Mgenzi Said Ramadhan Byabachwezi; Enoch Mutebi Kikulwe; Svetlana Edmeades (2003). "Overview of the Banana Economy in the Lake Victoria Regions of Uganda and Tanzania". In Melinda Smale; Wilberforce K. Tushemereirwe. An Economic Assessment of Banana Genetic Improvement and Innovation in the Lake Victoria Region of Uganda and Tanzania (PDF). International Food Policy Research Institute. pp. 25–36. Retrieved July 12, 2011. 
  9. ^ Lois Englberger; Ian Darnton-Hill; Terry Coyne; Maureen H. Fitzgerald; Geoffrey C. Marks (2003). "Carotenoid-rich bananas: A potential food source for alleviating vitamin A deficiency" (PDF). Food and Nutrition Bulletin. The United Nations University. 24 (4): 303–318. doi:10.1177/156482650302400401. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 26, 2011. Retrieved July 12, 2011. 
  10. ^ R. Birabwa; P.J.A. van Asten; I.N. Alou; G. Taulya (2010). "Got Matooke (Musa spp.) for Christmas?" (PDF). Acta Hort. (879): 113–122. doi:10.17660/actahortic.2010.879.9. Retrieved July 12, 2011. 
  11. ^ Linda Nordling (October 1, 2010). "Uganda prepares to plant transgenic bananas". Nature. doi:10.1038/news.2010.509. Retrieved July 12, 2011. 

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