Notes to broadcasters
This script captures the experiences of matoke farmers in the Bushenyi district of western Uganda in their fight against banana bacterial wilt. Bushenyi is one of the biggest matoke-producing areas in the country, and one of the worst affected by this banana disaster.
The script revisits the shock of farmers when they first saw the disease, and their frustration with not knowing how to stop it. It shows the widespread devastation, as entire banana fields were wiped out by the disease, and the frantic experiments some farmers developed in a vain attempt to keep a few banana stems standing until, finally, real workable solutions were found.
You could use this script as inspiration to research and write a script on the best ways to fight banana bacterial wilt in banana-growing areas, and how farmers can improve banana yields by following simple agronomic practices.
Or you might choose to produce this script on your station, using voice actors to represent the speakers. If so, please make sure to tell your audience at the beginning of the program that the voices are those of actors, not the original people involved in the interviews.
Talk to farmers and other experts who grow bananas or are knowledgeable about the crop. You might ask them:
What’s the main difference between those farmers who have managed to contain banana bacterial wilt and those who have failed?
What advice would you give to a farmer with a poor banana yield? What kinds of problems should the farmer look for?
For a farmer who is planning to plant his first banana crop, what does he or she need to know to have a wilt-free plantation? What can the farmer do to get the best yields?
Estimated running time for the script: 20 minutes, with intro and outro music.
Matoke is one of the best-loved staple foods in Uganda, and has for a long time been one of the biggest income-generating food crops. So when the disease started destroying banana plants, many farmers lost their source of income in a matter of months.
Farmers were left in fear of the future. What would happen to their families without their biggest source of food and money? Was there a way of stopping this epidemic?
Individual farmers started experimenting with solutions. The most common one was to cut down any plants that showed signs of sickness.
This didn’t work at all, which rather came as a surprise to farmers. The government was getting more and more worried too, so scientists went to work. Non-governmental organizations started looking for solutions too. Soon the National Agricultural Advisory Services, also called NAADS, and some NGOs started educating farmers on how to fight banana wilt. But by then, many farmers had lost their entire banana crop. The disease seemed to have won; the farmers had given up.
But not all farmers gave up the fight. One by one, brave farmers started implementing the advice from NAADS and the NGOs. One by one, fields started regaining their health. One by one, farmers started recovering hope.
Now banana bacterial wilt seems to be losing the battle and banana fields are starting to flourish again. But there is still a lot to be done.
I visited a few farmers in Bushenyi district to learn about fighting this deadly disease and how they have overcome it. First, we will hear from Madam Moreen Mwesigwa from Rwemitoozo village in Kyeizooba subcounty. She’s considered one of the most successful banana farmers in her village.
Signature tune up and out
By this time I was no longer able to sell a single bunch of matoke.
I met Robina Rwaheiguru, a woman in her early forties. She is the secretary of the 21-member farmers’ group called Kitara, which means “granary.”
I meet an agricultural officer, Ms. Clemence Nohamutizi, in the village of Kyamuhunga, 15 kilometres away from Robina’s home. Ms. Nohamutizi is out in the field meeting farmers and, if I want to talk to her, I have to find her in the field. Clearly she is a very busy lady. I find her finishing with a group of female farmers in a banana field. So she answers my questions right in front of the group, clearly for their benefit as well.
They said that Jik was too expensive and things like that. Other farmers didn’t even cut their sick plants; some were sick and others were too old to go around wasting energy on cutting sick plants. But many were just plain lazy or stubborn. This hurt those farmers who were doing their best to kick the disease out so much that they even complained to the authorities.
But we have reversed these mistakes slowly by slowly. Now people sanitize their tools with Jik or flame them, and they cut sick plants and bury them in a timely fashion. That’s why the fields are looking good again.
Yes, the war against the disease is far from over, but clearly there are steps you can take to contain it, even eliminate it, and have a healthy crop. So keep searching for knowledge from people like Clemence and keep applying it—because there is hope.
(PAUSE) Today, we’ve not only heard about ways to fight bacterial wilt and the mistakes to avoid, but we have also talked about ways to increase your banana yield by using simple farming techniques like mulching, composting, and de-leafing and de-suckering in the right way.
Remember to tune in to the program next week, when our topic will be ___. Goodbye for now from me, ___.
Contributed by: Tony Mushoborozi, content creator, Scrypta Pro Ltd., Uganda
Reviewed by: Muhumuza John Bosco, Mbarara Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute, National Agricultural Research Organisation, Mbarara, Uganda
All interviews conducted in December, 2015.