19 November 2012

Rwanda: Govt Intensifies Fight Against Banana Disease

Photo: David Gough/IRIN
Bananas remain the main crop both for daily consumption and national economy as it occupies more than 20 percent of the total cultivated land.

The Ministry of Agriculture through the Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) has put in place effective measures to control the banana xanthomonas wilt, which has affected 24 districts.

Under a new arrangement dubbed Community Mobilisation Campaigns, RAB has set up field schools targeting farmers in areas most affected by the disease.

When The New Times visited Muhanga and Huye districts last Friday, farmers acknowledged that the field schools had helped them cope with the disease.

"With these schools, officials are educating us how to deal with the disease unlike before when we did not know how to fight and prevent this disease," said Vincent Ndimwami, a farmer in Buvuma Cell, Mukura Sector in Huye District.The cell is among the most affected in the district.

Those who spoke to The New Times said the disease was subsiding in the area after various means of intervention.

"We first saw it as a double loss when officials told us that we needed to cut and uproot the affected banana plants; but compared to what we are seeing today, it was the right decision," said Ndimwami.

Ndimwami is among the many farmers whose harvest was heavily affected since the disease broke out in 2005. He said that he lost two hectares of bananas but acknowledges that he could have lost more if he had not followed instructions.

Commonly known as BXW, Banana Xanthomonas Wilt is a bacterial disease caused by Xanthomonas campestris pathovar musacearum. Among other symptoms, it is characterised by yellowing and wilting of banana leaves, shrivelling of male buds, premature ripening and internal discoloration of fruits.

The disease can easily be spread by among others the use of contaminated tools used to cut infected banana plants. It can also be spread by planting infected suckers that usually have invisible symptoms. However, the disease usually spreads when bees fly from one infected sucker to the other.

Officials from RAB are optimistic the disease will be contained.

"We have now involved local leaders to mobilise the communities so that large control measures can be implemented and village based task forces will soon be set-up to monitor the disease," said Innocent Musabyimana, the Deputy Director General of RAB.

The most common control measure is to uproot the infected banana plants and bury it. It can also be controlled by removing the male buds from the non affected plants, to avoid attracting bees which easily spread the disease.

Currently, 1,290 hectares of banana plantations affected by BXW are under quarantine while 27,731 farmers are directly involved in the control chain. At least 3,200 hectares have been rehabilitated and 58,740 farmers involved.

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