Rwanda to introduce bacteria-resistant bananas

Ministry of agriculture to replace infected plants countrywide starting next month.

Reduced banana harvests due to the bacteria disease has seen the price of the produce go up in Kigali. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA | NATION 

IN SUMMARY

  • Farmers in different parts of the country reported losses as a result of the banana bacterial wilt disease.  
  • The ministry will be mapping the spread of the disease followed by replacement of the affected crop with resistant varieties between February and June.
  • The agriculture ministry has also been advising farmers to disinfect tools before use by sterilising them using sodium hypochlorite (household bleach) or heating them.

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Rwanda's Ministry of Agriculture will introduce new banana varieties that are resistant to bacterial wilt to mitigate the effects the disease, which has spread across large swathes of the banana belt, slowing output.

Farmers in different parts of the country reported losses as a result of the banana bacterial wilt disease.  

The Ministry of Agriculture said they will start to replace infected plants countrywide starting next month.

“We have been working to develop resistant varieties that will be introduced across the country in the next farming season,” State Minister for Agriculture Fulgence Nsengiyumva told senators.

Mapping the spread of the disease

Mr Nsengiyumva said the ministry will be mapping the spread of the disease followed by replacement of the affected crop with resistant varieties between February and June.

“By the end of June we will be having sufficient stock of resistant varieties and the consolidated figures of seeds needed and where to deploy them,” said Telesphore Ndabamenye, the head of Crop Production and Food Security Department at the Rwanda Agriculture Board.

The agriculture ministry has been advising farmers to disinfect tools before use by sterilising them using sodium hypochlorite (household bleach) or heating them.

Reduced produce

The price of bananas in Kigali has remained high due to supply gaps. Farmers have been reporting a reduction in their produce by over half.

“I used to harvest bunches of bananas weighing more than 50kgs each six months ago, but now I am getting bunches weighing less than 35kg, “Telesphore Kabera, a banana farmer in Byimana sector of Ruhango district told Rwanda Today.

The eastern parts of Rwanda, which are the country’s main source of bananas, are the hardest hit.

Evariste Mutibagirana, a grower in Rwamagana district who has lost a third of his three-hectare banana plantation to the disease, blames lack of technical support from the agriculture ministry for the spread of the disease.

“We have had to find a solution on our own. Some farmers use cows’ urine or other herbal medicine, but it doesn’t work and after three months the disease returns,” said Mr Mutibagirana.

A recent visit by senators to different parts of the country found many banana farmers facing reduced food production.

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