This is the VOA Special English Development Report.
Two separate diseases are destroying
banana and plantain crops in Africa. They could threaten food security for
millions of Africans who depend on bananas as an important part of their diet.
Banana bacterial wilt was first reported
in Ethiopia in the late nineteen sixties. In two thousand one it was found in
Uganda. Since then it has spread to neighboring countries including Kenya,
Rwanda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
leaves of infected plants weaken and become yellow. They also leak a yellow
liquid. The bananas ripen too quickly and
begin to rot.
can unknowingly spread the infection with their cutting tools. Experts say by
the time a farmer discovers that something is wrong, it is already too late.
The crop must be destroyed.
Uganda is Africa's leading producer and
consumer of bananas. The organization Biodiversity International reports losses
of up to eighty percent in heavily affected areas of the country.
Farmers worry that a second disease could
also spread to Uganda. Bunchy top disease causes all of the leaves to grow from
the top of the banana plant. Infected plants produce small, abnormal fruit.
Finally, they stop producing completely.
International Institute for Tropical Agriculture says the disease is widely
found in Gabon, Angola, Malawi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
institute's Rachid Hanna says farmers must destroy infected plants, normally by
burning them. Bunchy top disease can spread from plant to plant and is also
spread by aphids. These small insects must be destroyed. Rachid Hanna advises farmers
to use biological controls such as natural enemies of the aphids.
bunchy top disease and banana bacterial wilt can both affect entire
plantations. Not only are farm incomes affected, but so are local food
supplies. Experts say more than thirty million people could be at risk of
shortages unless a solution is found.
Scientists from around the world met in
Tanzania last month to discuss the situation. Rachid Hanna says strong measures
must be taken now to prevent a crisis in the future.
RACHID HANNA: "What is necessary in this case is a
collective effort, not only by the researchers and the people on the ground,
but also the donor community, because controlling those two diseases can go a
long way in improving people's food security and livelihoods in Sub-Saharan
that's the VOA Special English Development Report, written by June Simms. I'm Steve Ember.