Reviving banana production to boost production and income in Ugunja District, western Kenya

| January 11, 2016

Download this story

Like this week’s story from Ethiopia, our Script of the week focuses on managing plant disease.

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 one quarter of a hectare of bananas and plant many different varieties. But banana yields have dropped because of declining soil fertility, pests, and diseases.

A disease called Banana Xanthomonas Wilt has been spreading rapidly. The disease is transmitted mainly through contaminated tools, infected planting materials, and insects. 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 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. At 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.