Reviving banana production to boost incomes in western Kenya

| December 17, 2018

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Bananas are one of the most important crops in East and Central Africa, both as a staple food and as a source of income for small-scale farmers. Most banana farmers in Kenya grow less than half an acre of bananas and plant many different varieties.

In western Kenya, many pests and diseases pose a serious threat to bananas. A disease called Banana Xanthomonas Wilt has been spreading rapidly and presents the greatest threat. The disease is transmitted mainly through contaminated tools, infected planting materials, and insects. There are no escaping varieties. Infected banana plants show a number of symptoms, including rapid yellowing and wilting of tender leaves; shriveling, blackening and eventual drying of male buds; and premature ripening and rotting of fingers, which makes fruit inedible.

The outbreak of Xanthomonas wilt in western Kenya has been addressed in many ways. Governments and other bodies created massive awareness campaigns to educate farmers on how to diagnose and prevent the disease from spreading. The campaign teams used the ABCD strategy, which includes:

A) complete removal of diseased plants, including mats;

B) burying uprooted and chopped plant materials;

C) disinfecting farm tools with sodium hypochlorite or fire;

D) timely removal of male buds with a forked stick to prevent insects from spreading the disease.

This script is based on interviews with banana farmers in Ugunja District. The banana farmers belong to four field schools in the district. At the farmer field schools, the farmers learned how to manage fields infected with Xanthomonas Wilt and stop the further spread of the disease. These farmers helped to revive banana production. Now Ugunja District is able to produce bananas for household consumption and for markets.

This script is based on actual interviews. You could read this script to learn more about Xanthomonas and how to address it. You can conduct interviews with farmers in your area to learn more about their experience with this banana disease. Or you might choose to produce this script at 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.