After the banana wilt has devastated the crop in East and Central Africa, researchers have come up with a project to stop its spread.
The Ugandan based Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in East and Central Africa (ASARECA) partnered with Rwanda Agricultural Development Agency (Rada), last week and launched the project in the country.
The project is intended to control the banana wilt bacteria (Banana xanothomonas wilt).
According to Dr Fina Opio, the ASARECA staple foods Programme Manager, the project is to enhance collective action in agricultural research for development, extension and agricultural training and education.
“This will promote economic growth, fight poverty, eradicate hunger and enhance sustainable use of resources,” he explained.
Dr Opio continued that it is through such projects that banana productivity can be sustained. Adding that through research, competitiveness of the regional agricultural system can be enhanced.
Research from African Agricultural Technology Foundation indicated that in the last five years, the disease has spread to 33 districts in Uganda and gone beyond into Eastern Congo, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda.
“When the disease strikes, the leaves of the infected plants first turn dull green (yellowish) before they become scalded. The plants start wilting and the bunches show uneven and premature ripening of fruit,” said Dr Opio.
Leon Hakizimana, the head of crop protection unit at Rwanda Agricultural Development Agency (RADA) said if not checked, it wilt will aggravate food shortage in the region.
The control of the bacteria involves a whole process of behavioral change among the farmers and other agricultural practitioners.
“This is because there farming practices contribute to its fast and widespread. Therefore the project will have sensitization packages for the farmers on proper methods of wilt control,” he explained.
The project is part of the banana plantation rehabilitation programme Rada introduced earlier this year which involves introduction of new banana species and better farming techniques.