More than 600 agronomists have been dispatched across the country to work with local leaders and farmers in a campaign aimed at eradicating the banana xanthomonas wilt disease that threatens banana production in the country.
The Director General of Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), Dr Jean Jacques Mbonigaba Muhinda said the plan is to have the disease eradicated by mid March.
At least 5,680 hectares of banana plantation are affected countrywide, according to Rab.
The Eastern Province is the most affected with 4,216 hectares, followed by the Northern Province with 1,051 hectares.Mbonigaba said the focus now is not disease control but eradication. The affected banana trees will be uprooted and buried to minimise the spread of the virus.
“We are doing systematic control and over 600 facilitators have been sent out across the country,” he said.
He urged farmers to attend sensitisation campaigns during which facilitators will be addressing the issue. Mbonigaba said though the percentage of the infected banana plantation is small compared to the cultivated area, urgent action is needed to curb virus spread. Dr Agnes Kalibata, the Minister for Agriculture, eradication banana wilt disease will not be possible unless farmers are sensitised enough.
She called upon farmers to be mindful of the fact that the disease spreads through the tools they use in gardening, adding that if the tools are cleaned daily, the disease will be contained. Camille Hodari, the Musanze District agronomist, said they will work closely with the experts dispatched in his district to fight the disease.
Banana xanthomonas wilt is a bacterial disease caused by Xanthomonas campestris
It was originally identified on a close relative of banana, Ensete ventricosum, in Ethiopia in the 1960s before it found its way to Uganda in 2001. Since then it has been diagnosed in Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, and Burundi among other regional countries.