Declining soil fertility and pests and diseases are major constraints to banana productivity in smallholder farming systems in Uganda. This study explored farmers’ awareness and perceptions on agro-ecological intensification (AEI) practices for addressing these constraints in five banana-growing districts in Uganda. Stratified random sampling procedure was used to select 60 households for a survey from different agro-ecological zones and banana production systems. The household survey was complemented with focus group discussions to obtain qualitative data on farmer perceptions on benefits and constraints to AEI application on-farm. Thematic content analysis and descriptive statistics were used to analyze data. Results of the study show that most of the interviewed farmers were aware of the AEI practices although not all those aware had adopted the practices. Farmers were motivated to apply AEI practices perceived to offer multiple benefits: pest and disease management, enhanced productivity, soil fertility improvement and ecological adaptability. Major constraints to application of AEI practices by farmers include insufficient knowledge, labour intensiveness and limited access to markets. A transition towards intensification of smallholder banana systems requires that the full range of ecosystem services provided by AEI practices are recognized and valued by farmers. Therefore, empowering farmers with knowledge on their agro-ecological systems and locally adapting AEI practices is essential for realization of benefits and wider adoption of AEI practices.
Keywords: Agro-ecological intensification (AEI), awareness, banana, perceived benefits, smallholder, Uganda.
Abbreviations: AEI, Agro-ecological intensification; IPM, integrated pest management; ICM, integrated crop management; NAADS, National Agricultural Advisory Services.
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