Cassava virus hits Buliisa

Ms Topista Atugonza (right), one of the affected farmers, displays some cassava tubers affected by the cassava brown streak virus at the meeting. Photo by Francis Mugerwa.

Hoima- Residents of Buliisa District have petitioned government to contain a cassava virus that has destroyed hundreds of hectares of cassava plantations in the district.

The cassava brown streak virus causes yellowing of leaves, drying of the stem and rotting of cassava tubers.

“We request government’s intervention because the disease is a threat to food security and household income,” Mr James Wendi, the chairperson of Muvule-1 village in Ngwedo Sub-county, said.

He added: “Cassava is a staple food in the district. Any threat against it is a threat against our livelihood.”
Mr Wendi was speaking at a food sovereignty meeting organised by the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) on Sunday.

Farmers said the most affected cassava plants are the improved varieties.

Ms Topista Atugonza, one of the affected farmers, expressed concern that the disease could impact negatively on the education standards in the area.

“Our children are going to school hungry. They feed on one meal a day. Some of them refuse to attend classes on an empty stomach,” she said.

The Buliisa District production officer, Mr Robert Kaahwa, said contrary to claims by farmers that the improved cassava varieties are more affected by the disease, findings by scientists from National Agricultural Research Organization (Naro), indicate that Nacy-14 that is being promoted in the district, is tolerant to pests and diseases.

“We have asked the Ministry of Agriculture to give us more cassava cuttings that are tolerant to pests and diseases. We are also advising farmers to uproot the infected plants,” Kaahwa said.

He said the most affected sub-counties are Kihungya, Ngwedo, Biiso and Buliisa, which are the main cassava growing areas in the district.

The NAPE sustainability school manager, Mr Allan Kalangi, said the organisation had partnered with Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom after a call by the Omukama of Bunyoro Solomon Gafabusa Iguru I to preserve indigenous seeds in his kingdom.
“As you grow improved seeds that are being offered to you through government programmes, we are encouraging you to also grow the indigenous seeds,” Mr Kalangi said.

About the virus
Threat: Cassava brown streak disease (CBSD) presents the most formidable threat to cassava productivity in sub-Saharan Africa.

Cause: CBSD is caused by two distinct species of single-stranded RNA (ssRNA) viruses, Cassava brown streak virus (CBSV) and Ugandan cassava brown streak virus (UCBSV.

Spread: Both species are weakly transmitted by the whitefly species complex Bemisia tabaci Gennadius in the field and by grafting to indicator plants. Propagating infected cassava cuttings spreads the virus in the field


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