Banana Xanthomonas Wilt is a devastating disease threatening banana production in Africa, causing up to 80-100% crop losses in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. To fight its spread, Bioversity International and partners are looking for better ways to manage the disease – from planting, to harvesting, to transportation and consumption – in East Africa and the Horn of Africa.
By studying how the disease spreads and working with different people and groups involved in the process, researchers are identifying the best control measures possible to curb the disease. This knowledge is being shared with relevant policymakers and stakeholders, to ensure that the necessary institutional frameworks are put in place to support management efforts such as quarantine and surveillance protocols. Farmers are also being informed of cost-effective management options through regional meetings, farmer exchange visits and farmer field schools. In 2012, six new farmer field schools were formed, and members from established ones are helping to train newcomers.
The Banana Xanthomonas Wilt project, funded by the McKnight Foundation, was awarded the best ‘KARI (Kenya Agricultural Research Institute) Implemented Project 2012’ for solving farmers’ constraints and increasing food and income security through innovative and participatory approaches, working across different levels, disciplines and gender, from the farm to the marketplace.
In addition to the KARI award, one of the farmers who participated in the project has been honoured by the Kenya Government and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) as ‘Best Farmer, Ugunja District’ for his efforts towards enhancing food security in Kenya. In his community, George Ouma is now a keen advocate of using clean planting materials to help fight the disease. He supplies healthy banana seedlings, through KARI and FAO, to people who want to start banana enterprises, advising them also to diversify crops to spread risk and maximize income opportunities, and not just rely on bananas.
“This award means a lot to me and my community. We have a motto on the farm: ‘Work like a donkey and dine like a king or queen.’ It is true that running a good farm involves a lot of hard work, and to have this recognition gives us the incentive to continue,” said Ouma.
Photo: George Ouma sharing his knowledge during a Farmers’ Field School - Credit: Bioversity International/E. Karamura