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Catastrophe Awaits Uganda’s Banana Industry

by Wangah Wanyama
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Unless urgent action is taken, Uganda’s Banana Industry will never be the same fifty years from now.
Uganda is the third highest producer of Banana behind India and China. Ugandans have a per  capita consumption of more than 300 kgs, of this staple food crop. Banana therefore is a crop of strategic importance to food security. Uganda is 70th as exporter, indicating a high potential in this direction.
The Banana Industry’s problem is not value addition but failure to diversify into the exportable Banana varieties that dominate the export market. The categories of Bogoya and Sukali Ndizi, could be the way to go.

Diseases that afflict Banana are incurable, Xanthomonas campestri pv. and Sigatoka fungi in the category. Banana Research has carried out their part, but the recommendations given to control Xanthomonas campestri are very difficult to implement at the poor Small farmers level: The recommendations for the control Xanthomonas campestri – Kiwotoka is to uproot and destroy. Imagine telling a poor farmer to diognise and then destroy?!!. Creazy recommendations, but true!!
The most likely alternative would be for the farmer to pray for the plantation. But here it is not prayer that will work. I would suggest well trained Banana Diseases and Pest control Teams, much as it was for the control Coffee Berry Diseases (CBD) in Bugisu, during the 1970’s.
Local governments should put in place ordinances to enforce the Banana diseases and Pests scourge control. Another threat happening to Banana is the huge loss of soil nutrients causing a negative soil nutrients balance as the nutrients are exported in the crop without replenishment!

The challenges mentioned have been responsible for the shift of matooke from Mukono to Masaka and now confined in the southwestern Uganda. This is not rocket science but simple logic, those responsible need to wake up right now or never.

Why has this taken long to find a solution?  This is mainly due to institutional distancing!! While experimental research finds solutions implementation procedures are in the realm of extension modalities. The two institutional arrangements must come together and find a way to go.

Prof Edward Ssemakula
Mbarara 

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