Bukoba — KAGERA Regional Commissioner (RC), Mr Fabian Massawe, has appealed to residents in the region to plant fast-maturing crops including cassava, sweet potatoes and maize as a precaution following destruction caused by the Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW).
Mr Massawe said over two million improved banana seedlings had already been produced at Maruku Agricultural Research Institute (ARI) in Bukoba Rural District and were being sold at a subsidised price of 300/- each.
He advised farmers in the region who uprooted their banana stems which were affected by BXW to collect the banana seedlings from the institute.
Mr Massawe also disclosed that the government had allocated over 200,000 tonnes of maize for people affected by BXW in the region.
He cautioned leaders at the village, ward and district levels to closely monitor the distribution of food aid to the affected families, warning that stern action would be taken against officials who would collude in stealing the food aid including prosecuting them in court.
Eight districts in Kagera Region have confirmed to have been hit by the destructive Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW), also known as Banana Bacterial Wilt (BBW) disease.
Almost 90 per cent of the entire crop is at risk of destruction. The situation has caused panic among farmers and residents in the region who depend on banana as their main staple and cash crop.
BXW is a bacterial disease that causes yellowing and wilting of the leaves, uneven and premature ripening of the fruits and eventually the plants rot and die.
According to Mr Massawe, starting from January, this year, surveillance teams had been making on-spot inspection and penalizing farmers who would be proved to have neglected their banana farms. He also directed district councils to pass by-laws to combat the disease.
BXW is caused by the bacterium Xanthomonas campestris and affects all types of banana. Available data indicate that Kagera Region has annual yield of about 650,000 tonnes of banana. Banana is an economic backbone of Kagera residents, comprising over 2,458,023 people, according to the 2012 Population and Housing Census.
Meanwhile, over 1,296,000 banana stems were recently uprooted and destroyed through burning in Bukoba Rural district in an effort to combat the deadly BXW.
Bukoba District Executive Director, Ms Gladys Dyamvunye, said 80 out of 92 villages in the district had been affected by BXW, adding that the district faced shortage of 51,879 tonnes of food.