Great Lakes in new bid to control crop pests, diseases

The Seven countries that make up the Great Lakes region, in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), are mulling measures to control crop pests and diseases.

The Seven countries that make up the Great Lakes region, in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), are mulling measures to control crop pests and diseases. 

The intervention follows recent spates of crop diseases and pest outbreaks at varying times in the region.

For instance, farmers in Southern Province were recently left counting losses when cassava brown streak disease unleashed untold damage on crops, damaging hundreds of hectares.

Like the cassava farmers, maize growers in Burera, Nyabihu and Rubavu districts, too, found themselves on the receiving end of losses accrued from necrotic disease.

In Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, maize farmers equally suffered after their crops were attacked by Maize Lethal Necrosis (MLN).

Stakeholders in the agriculture sector are convinced of the need for intervention to check future outbreaks.

The core strategies to enhance control of pests and diseases include providing a forum to share experiences in plant protection within the region, conducting research on pests and sharing the findings, and introducing new varieties of plants.

Other measures include encouraging the private sector to be involved in pests control and to put in place adequate communication systems within the region.

Maize, cassava and bananas are among the basic food crops in Eastern and Central Africa. Yet, they are prone to pests and diseases that dent them which always culminate into food insecurity within the region,” said Dr Joyce Mulila Mitti, the FAO regional officer for plants production and protection.

She was speaking at a regional platform on plants and diseases.

In Rwanda, bananas that cover 23 per cent of the agricultural land are being damaged by banana xanthomanos wilt and the banana fusarium wilt that happen to make farmers to count losses of up to 100 per cent.

To tackle the crisis, Leon Hakizamungu, the in-charge of banana promotion at Rwanda Agriculture Board (Rab), said they have put in place a policy to replace the 60 per cent of the affected bananas with the newly introduced variety.

Before replacing the infected crops, experts say it requires research about pests to generate information before farmers can plant.

Jerome Kubinda, a senior researcher at Uganda’s National Agriculture Research Organisation, said research also helps to identify resistant varieties.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

 

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