IN the name of food security and in the spirit of Kilimo Kwanza it is a matter of urgency that solutions are sought to check and prevent banana wilt that is currently ravaging districts in Kagera region.
It would be a pity if the bacterial banana disease spreads to other major banana growing regions in the country namely Kilimanjaro and Mbeya due to negligence.
Bananas and plantains are important staple foods for nearly 400 million people in many developing countries, especially in Africa.
Total global production ranks fourth after maize, rice and wheat. In the East African highlands, consumption may be as high as 1 kilogramme per person per day.
Of the numerous edible varieties, the East African Highland Banana accounts for 17 per cent of the types of Musa grown worldwide and plantain accounts for another 19 per cent. There are 120 banana varieties in neighbouring Uganda alone that are not found anywhere else in the world.
Bananas and plantains provide food security and income for small-scale farmers who represent the majority of producers. Only 15 per cent of global banana and plantain production is involved in international trade - most production is consumed domestically.
Researchers from the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) partnership say that while bananas may replace potatoes in some developing countries, cassava and other little known cowpea plant could play increasingly important roles as temperatures rise.
It is of more importance that Tanzanians cherish their bananas and ensure they grow more healthy varieties not only for their own consumption but for export as well. Researchers suggest that the potato, which grows in abundance in cooler climates, could also suffer as temperatures increase and weather becomes more volatile.
Researchers argue that these changes "could provide an opening for cultivating certain varieties of bananas" at higher altitudes, even in those places that currently grow potatoes.
From an economic point of view it is vital that a long lasting solution is found to the havoc that banana wilt causes. Scientists believe it is high time the country legalised biotechnology based research on bananas and they say that there is a project underway since 2004 to develop a banana variety that is resistant to wilt through genetic modification.
We think it would only be fair if the scientists shared the progress or lack of it and give an indication on when that wonder banana could be introduced and patented. Otherwise, we urge that stricter effort should be placed on preventive measures.
Agricultural officers and leaders at grass root level need to step up the game and sensitise farmers in Kagera on the necessary measures to be taken to spot the symptoms early and minimise the spread as much as possible.
These measures include disinfecting the farm tools that have been in contact with banana plantations that are affected by the wilt.