Farmers decry disease outbreak that has ravaged mango crops

Sooty Mould’s transmission occurs by air-borne. The infected trees did not even blossom. Mango farmers in Rwamagana do not expect good harvest. Jean de Dieu Nsabimana.

Farmers in Rwamagana District have expressed concern over a disease outbreak that has attacked mango plants, fearing it could cause massive loss of output.

The Sooty Mold is a disease recognised by the presence of a black fungi on the leaf surface, and in severe cases, the trees turn completely black due to the presence of mold over the entire surface of twigs and leaves.

December to March is peak season for mangos but farmers say that, based on the current output, production is likely to dwindle compared to previous seasons.

Eugene Gisagara, a farmer from Bwiza Cell, Kigabiro Sector, told The New Times that his entire mango plantation, which covers two hectares, has been hit by the virus.

In his first season as a mango farmer, Gisagara harvested five tonnes, and in the second more than nine tonnes.

But now he’s anticipating a drop of more than 50 per cent.

“I think this season I will harvest only 3.5 tonnes,” he said.

Some parts of Kayonza District, especially those neighbouring Rwamagana, are also affected.

“People who have traditional trees in their farms do not apply pesticides. You can see that they do not care much,” Gisagara added.

“The disease [Sooty Mould] is like the armyworm [which affects maize), when one farmer applies insecticides and the neighbour doesn’t, the disease spreads again,” he said.

This means that in order to eliminate the disease famers have to embrace best farming practices, such as timely application of fertilisers.

Gisagara called on district authorities to launch a campaign to convince farmers to apply pesticides or cut the infected trees.

A kilogramme of mangoes goes for more than Rwf800 in Kigali.

Gisagara appealed for help from the National Agriculture Exports Board (NAEB). He was told to write an official letter requesting for pesticides, he said.

Vestine Mukasakindi, a fruit vendor in Rwamagana market, said they have resorted to selling imported mangoes from Tanzania due to shortage of supply from local producers.

“There is scarcity of locally produced mangoes on the market,” she said.

Call for farmers’ platform

Farmers are also pushing for a platform where they can easily share ideas.

Thomas Nsengimana, from Mwulire Cell in Mwulire Sector, says sharing experiences with other farmers would be of great help.

Nsengimana has 2,627 mango trees on 9.5 hectares.

“By January or February, I will know exactly the quantity I am going to harvest,” he said.

Officials at the National Agricultural Exports Board (NAEB) told The New Times that when a farmer raises such issues they send a technician to visit them and then arrange to give them pesticides. However, this applies to those who have big mango farms.

Eastern Province is suitable for mango and avocado farming.

While avocado seedlings that were distributed by NAEB have thrived in the region and boosted production, output for mangoes is still low.