By now almost everybody in Uganda is aware of the Banana Bacterial Wilt (BBW), the disease that is steadily killing off one of our major food crops by causing yellowing and wilting of its leaves, premature ripening of its fruits and eventually the rotting and dying of the entire stem.
In December 2014, according to an article in the b4fa.org newsletter (January 6 2015), there was a meeting at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) headquarters in Rome which discussed the disease’s devastating effect on global food security.
In Uganda, the disease has reduced our annual $550m (about Shs1.6t) banana production to $350m (about Shs1t). According to Jerome Kubiriba, head of the Banana Research Project, the disease was first spotted in 2001 in such countries as Ethiopia where it existed in the mid-sixties. It has no known cure and it continues to spread despite global efforts to control it.
Uganda is Africa’s biggest producer of bananas and next to India internationally but we must worry given the severity of the disease. FAO’s head of plant protection, Clayton Campanhola, told the meeting of experts in Rome, “Fusarium wilt disease (BBW) has been a major challenge in the history of banana production.
After the devastation it recently caused to bananas in parts of Asia, we have to fear for its spread in Africa and the Middle East and also to Latin America, and consider it as a threat to production globally.”
BBW, also known as Panama Disease, is said to have brought Indonesia’s banana exports of more than 100,000 tonnes annually to a grinding halt.
Currently, the disease is severely affecting more than 6,000 hectares in the Philippines and 40,000 hectares in China, according to the b4fa.org newsletter.
In the Kagera region, Tanzania, a total of 3,882,388 banana stems were recently uprooted and destroyed in an effort to combat the deadly disease and farmers have been told to quickly plant maize, cassava, and other fast growing food crops to avoid starvation.
Part of the effort to fight BBW in Uganda is biotechnological research but the government has delayed to pass the needed law to regulate the process.
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