14 April 2014

Tanzania: Govt Vows to Contain Banana Wilt Disease

THE government is committed to eliminating the wilt disease, which is currently attacking banana plantations in Kagera region, by the end of the year, Kagera Regional Commissioner, Mr Fabian Massawe, has said.

"Banana is not only a staple food in the area, but also a commercial crop highly depended on by the majority of the people in the region.

So, this decease has an adverse effect on the people's economic well-being, hence the need to contain it without delay," the RC said at a press briefing in Dar es Salaam over the weekend.

He was reacting to concerns raised by Mabibo Beer, Wines and Spirits Limited Executive Chairman, Mrs Bernadetha Rugemalira, over the lack of serious strategies by the government to contain the decease which was leading many citizens in the region to poverty.

She pointed out that the disease had seriously affected the lives of the people in the region and was making them poor, considering its importance as both a commercial and staple crop.

"The government should intervene and take appropriate measures to prevent the spread of the disease," appealed Mrs Rugemalira.

In response, Mr Massawe said the regional government was taking concrete measures to address the situation, adding that to begin with it had embarked on providing education to the people about handling the disease including uprooting the affected banana stems and burying them.

"We have allocated a timeframe of six months from now for every citizen to take due steps on the matter. Collective responsibility is called for," he said, warning that any farmer found with a diseased plant in their farm would be prosecuted.

The RC further warned that irresponsible local leaders, in particular ward and villages executives, would lose their jobs.

He was however upbeat that, with the positive response the government was getting from wananchi, the disease would be eliminated.

Banana wilt disease, better known as mnyauko, has been affecting banana plantations in the region, causing the plants' leaves to dry completely, resulting in the banana stalk failing to produce fruits as required.

No cure for the disease has so far been discovered. The disease also attacked other regions in Uganda and Rwanda, but the two countries managed to contain it when farmers decided to stand firm and learned how to contain it.

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