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Script 81.6

Notes to broadcasters

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Banana bacterial wilt disease is caused by bacteria and spread by insects, infected tools and infected banana material and soil. The disease has spread rapidly and attacks and affects the entire banana, including the stem and fruit and is highly virulent, causing a massive impact on banana production and plant survival.

Banana bacterial wilt disease was discovered in banana plantations over five years ago and has so far spread to 37 of the 81 districts in Uganda. Uganda has been trying to fight this disease because agriculture is the backbone of the country and bananas are an important staple food crop and are also an important commercial crop.

Script

VUMIRIA COLLINS:
Good morning, sir. My name is Vumiria Collins and I work with Radio West in Mbarara, Uganda. I am here at the office of the district Agricultural Officer of Mbarara district to get information about practices that farmers are being encouraged to use in the wake of the deadly banana wilt disease that has been reported in 37 districts across Uganda. First, I want to be sure of your name and title, sir.

NATHAN BYARUHANGA:
Thank you very much. My name is Nathan Byaruhanga. I am an Agricultural Officer in charge of Mbarara District.

VUMIRIA COLLINS:
Banana bacterial wilt disease has really spread far and wide. It has so far affected plantations in 37 out of the 81 districts in the country.

NATHAN BYARUHANGA:
Yes! We are engaged in education programs for local farmers.

VUMIRIA COLLINS:
What are some of the issues that you tell farmers about on your visits?

NATHAN BYARUHANGA:
During the education sessions, we tell them that it is important that they burn the male buds off the banana fruits, in order to avoid the spread of the bacteria from infected bananas to non-infected bananas. Farmers should cut off the buds as soon as they appear, even when the banana fruit is not yet affected by the bacterial disease. We also tell them that, whenever they recognize an infected plant, they should uproot it totally and bury it as quickly as possible to avoid the spread of the disease. Infected stems should be buried in pits not less than a foot deep. If possible, this should be outside of the banana plantation, or at least in a different field, to avoid re-occurrence of the disease. By-laws have been introduced at the village level to ensure that these guidelines are followed by farmers.

VUMIRIA COLLINS:
Nathan, can the disease be transferred as well through tools such as hoes?

NATHAN BYARUHANGA:
This is true. We recently embarked on a campaign to ensure that, in areas where this disease has been identified, every farmer buys a disinfectant such as Jik, so that they can soak the tools after use.

VUMIRIA COLLINS:
But what can farmers do when they cannot afford to buy a disinfectant on a weekly basis, yet they go to their plantations almost every day?

NATHAN BYARUHANGA:
At least they can afford firewood. Therefore we advise them to heat the tools until they are red-hot before they are re-used.

VUMIRIA COLLINS:
It sounds like this disease will be history in the next few months with the kind of campaign you have embarked on!

NATHAN BYARUHANGA:
No way! This disease keeps re-occurring. Even in areas that we have recently visited to educate farmers, and where we have uprooted plants ourselves, the disease is already back.

VUMIRIA COLLINS:
So what is the way forward?

NATHAN BYARUHANGA:
We are not resting. We are intensifying the education of the farmers. We have also set up committees, right from the village level up to the district level, to ensure that the education reaches everyone, including all leaders – church, political or traditional.

VUMIRIA COLLINS: Are farmers adopting the practices you are teaching?

NATHAN BYARUHANGA:
Yes, but not as widely as we expected. They are spreading slowly.

VUMIRIA COLLINS:
Thank you very much.

NATHAN BYARUHANGA:
Thank you.

Acknowledgements

Contributed by: Vumiria Collins, Radio West, Mbarara, Uganda.
Reviewed by: Fen Beed, Research for Development Councillor, Plant Pathologist – Weed Biocontrol, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Kampala, Uganda.

Information Sources

W. Tushemereirwe, A. Kangire, J. Smith, F. Ssekiwoko, M. Nakyanzi, D. Kataama, C. Musiitwa and R. Karyaija, 2003. An outbreak of bacterial wilt on banana in Uganda. InfoMusa, Volume 12, Number 2, pages 6-8. International Network for the Improvement of Banana and Plantain, INFOMUSA, INIBAP, Parc Scientifique Agropolis II, 34397 Montpellier Cedex 5, France. Telephone             + 33-(0) 4 67 61 13 02      ; Fax: + 33-(0) 4 67 61 03 34; E-mail: inibap@cgiar.org. On-line at http://bananas.bioversityinternational.org/files/files/pdf/publications/info12.2_en.pdf

Crop Crisis Control (C3P) Project Work Plan Documents – on-line at http://c3project.iita.org/LatestNewsReport.aspx