Cassava farmers wary as viral disease ravages crops

CASSAVA FARMERS in the southern districts of Kamonyi and Ruhango have expressed concerns following a wanton attack of cassava brown streak disease (CBSD), which has decimated dozens of hectares of their plantations.
Dozens of hectares of cassava plantations have been damaged by the cassava brown disease in Ruhango and Kamonyi. (Jean-Pierre Bucyensenge)
Dozens of hectares of cassava plantations have been damaged by the cassava brown disease in Ruhango and Kamonyi. (Jean-Pierre Bucyensenge)

CASSAVA FARMERS in the southern districts of Kamonyi and Ruhango have expressed concerns following a wanton attack of cassava brown streak disease (CBSD), which has decimated dozens of hectares of their plantations.

Both the districts are major cassava producers in the country.

CBSD is a devastating disease that causes loss of cassava root (tuber) production and quality. Root rot resulting from the viral disease renders the cassava tuber inedible.

The farmers bemoaned the outbreak, saying it is threatening their economic sustenance.

The disease is causing a loss of millions of francs among the farmers, both residents and leaders have said.

Fabien Gatete, a resident of Byimana Sector in Ruhango, said he was expecting at least Rwf700,000 from his cassava plantation but due to the disease, his hope has vanished.

“My entire plantation has been destroyed. The disease has caused huge losses and that will surely affect our lives and our welfare,” he said.

The farmer said it is the first time that the disease is affecting their crops. “We are being advised to uproot and destroy the affected cassava stems. There is no other alternative.”

Ernest Musabyimana, another farmer, said the majority of residents depended on cassava production to support their families, educate their children and respond to their needs.

“Now we are getting in trouble because of this disease which has eaten all our crops. We have gone so many steps backward because of the disease,” Musabyimana said.

Lost investments

Telesphore Rushyana, from Kamonyi, said the disease has caused significant damages. The farmer, together with another three individuals he had teamed up with to extend their plantations and expand productivity, lost 11 hectares of cassava to the virus.

“That’s millions of francs we are losing,” he said. “We had invested all our resources in this plantation and now we have lost it all. We are worried.”

Almost the entire cassava plantations in Ruhango and Kamonyi districts have been affected, with production expected to decrease significantly.

In Kamonyi alone, about 98 per cent of the total cassava plantations have been affected.

The disease is also expected to affect the functioning of the Ruhango-based Kinazi Cassava Plant which has been depending on local produce to process cassava flour.

Apart from the two districts, the disease has also affected other parts of the country though at a relatively smaller scale.

Authorities have blamed poor quality seeds as the main cause of the disease.

The Minister for Agriculture, Dr Geraldine Mukeshimana, who visited the two districts on Tuesday, urged farmers to always use “quality varieties” to avoid risks of planting contaminated crops.

She advised the farmers to uproot all the affected plants and destroy them to avoid the risks of future contamination.

The minister also pledged to provide quality cassava plantains to farmers.

 

 

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