RUBAVU — The state minister in charge of Agriculture and Animal Resources Agnes Kalibata has criticised farmers in the western province for not doing enough to eradicate the increasing banana diseases.
Citing Fusarium wilt and Black leaf sigatoka diseases, the common banana diseases in the region, the minister warned that plantations belonging to ‘negligent’ farmers may be destroyed.
“We shall soon introduce tough measures for farmers who don’t want to work on their plantations. We shall, if need be, destroy the entire plantations of such farmers in order to protect those whose owners have carried out all the protective measures because most banana diseases are contagious and are easily transmittable from one plantation to another,” she warned.
She made the remarks recently while touring the district. Her remarks however, followed an inspection of banana plantations in Rugerero, one of the 12 sectors of Rubavu.
Asked if the Ministry would compensate the farmers in the event of destruction of their plantations, Kalibata ruled it out, saying affected farmers would be advised to replace their plantations with other food crops such as beans and Irish potatoes.
“This is a very fertile region. Any crop that will replace the affected plantations will do well,” she explained. She however said that this drastic step would be resorted to after farmers totally fail to comply with the directives.
Noting that more work needed to be done to curtail the wilt, Kalibata called upon farmers to regularly remove the infected sucks from the plantations as the only viable way to protect the uninfected plants and reduce the diseases’ spread.
“The ministry of Agriculture has put up various projects and researchers to fight banana diseases in this region. The most important things however are not projects, its farmers themselves who should stand up and fight the diseases because the method used is simple,” she said.
Local and opinion leaders, she said, need to explain to residents about the dangers of banana diseases and eradication techniques.
Céléstine Twagirayezu, the district Mayor also blamed farmers for not adopting eradication mechanisms despite numerous interventions by the district.
“We set up various commissions responsible for fighting the diseases in all the Sectors. The commission members discussed and educated residents about various facts about banana diseases, farmers have however not contributed much in this fight,” he said.
Speaking to The New Times, farmers moaned that the wilt has greatly affected their banana production and decreased their incomes.
“I used to get enough money to pay school fees for my four children in secondary school. I currently get less from my plantation since most plants are affected by the disease locally known as Kirabiranya,” said Pierre Bizimana one of the farmers in Rugerero sector.
The two banana diseases were first reported in Rubavu in 2005.