KIGALI - Bacteria wilt, a banana plant disease first identified in 2005, has now spread to 17 districts in the country, Rwanda Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) has revealed.
In an interview, RADA’s head of banana program, Daniel Niyikiza, said that the disease feared to have originated from DRC and Uganda is spreading rapidly across the country.
“The disease has many ways of spreading and so it has become very difficult to contain. The widespread is a result of sharing farm tools, materials and soil erosion,” Niyikiza said.
“Though we have been able to contain the disease in Kirehe and Rwamagana, the disease is still present and spreading in areas like Rubavu, Gatsibo and Nyagatare,” Niyikiza said.
Following the disease’s devastating effects on banana production, farmers have now turned to the production of alternative crops such as beans and maize.
“Hard hit Eastern province farmers however can not easily turn away from planting banana because it’s the most suitable for the region and no other plants can do as well,” Niyikiza said.
“To be contained, the farmers are being advised to treat their farms with pesticides, to uproot all the affected plants and to refrain from cultivating for at least two months to stop the disease spread,” Niyikiza noted.
Niyikiza said that the farmers who are forced to uproot their plants will be provided with seeds and planting materials to compensate for their losses.
“Currently we are providing farmers with cultivating products to stop sharing, a fact that has particularly contributed to the spread of the disease,” the official said.
He revealed that following the disease devastating effects in the region, Scientists from the affected countries have converged in Tanzania, to discuss how to counter the pandemic.
International Institute of Tropical Agriculture confirmed that the disease has been found in Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, western Kenya, northwest Tanzania and North and South Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Uganda, the continent’s leading banana grower and consumer, has experienced bacterial wilt since 2001 and it causes losses of between $70 million and $200 million annually, according to CGIAR.