Africans were using locally available crops to brew beer long before Europeans introduced their own techniques, but East Africans stand out in that their traditional beer is made with bananas. In Uganda, one of the names under which the original beer bananas are known is mbidde. It is also the name given to the cluster they form within a large group of otherwise cooking bananas, the East African highland bananas (EAHB).
The low genetic diversity underpinning EAHB cultivars suggests that they are derived ? through mutations ? from a single ancestor that may have been introduced as long ago as 500 BC. The mbidde cultivars are mutants of the cooking zones, but since farmers propagated them despite their lack of culinary qualities, it would mean that mbidde bananas are an example of a crop domesticated for beer, not food.
The practice of making banana beer the traditional way is still alive in many rural areas of Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where it is an important part of the rural economy along with non-traditional methods of processing bananas into wine and gin. As Bioversity International scientist Anne Rietveld noted during her presentation at the 2016 ISHS-ProMusa symposium, these banana-based beverages are one of the few income-generating options available in rural areas.