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Rwanda introduces new varieties to fight banana-wilt disease
February 24, 2018, 3:53 pm
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Banana farmers in Rwanda, with assistance from the country’s Ministry of Agriculture, are set to introduce new disease-resistant varieties of bananas in a bid to counter losses suffered to their crops in recent years.

The Ministry of Agriculture introduced the new resistant varieties in a bid to mitigate the effects of bacterial wilt on bananas that has spread across large swathes of the banana belt in Rwanda, slowing the country’s output of the crop. The ministry said it planned to replace infected plants countrywide starting next month.

The ministry will be mapping the spread of the disease followed by replacement of the affected crop with resistant varieties between February and June, said State Minister for Agriculture Fulgence Nsengiyumva. By the end of June the ministry expects to have sufficient stock of resistant varieties and the consolidated figures of seeds needed and where to deploy them.

The eastern parts of Rwanda, which are the country's main source of bananas, have been the hardest hit by the banana wilt disease. The price of bananas in the capital Kigali has remained high due to supply gaps. Farmers have been reporting a reduction in their produce by over half. "I used to harvest bunches of bananas weighing more than 50kgs each six months ago, but now I am getting bunches weighing less than 35kg, " said Telesphore Kabera, a banana farmer in Ruhango district.

Banana crop accounts for about 23 percent of the entire farmland in Rwanda, estimated at 1.4 million hectares.  Apart from serving as a staple food crop for most people, it also provides ripe bananas for export. Given the importance of banana in the lives of Rwandans, the country cannot overlook the issue of current seeds getting old and becoming prone to disease attacks such as the Banana Xanthomonas wilt (BXW), locally known as 'Kirabiranya'.

 

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