The news from Tanzania isn’t pleasant news. This is because the two main food crops Cassava and Maize is spreading at an alarming rate. The spread of the crop diseases is threatening food security in the two main regions of the Lake Zone. The diseases according to Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB), are Cassava Mosaic, Brown Streak, Maize Lethal Necrosis and Banana Wilt.
The most affected villages are Kisamwene in Butiama District, Randa in Torya and Ligamba in Bunda. Almost 90% of the staple food in Mara and Mwanza Regions were affected by disease leaving thousands of villagers in severe hunger.
Villagers are very desperate because they have no food and their annual harvest is inadequate as they depend on food aid from government.
Chief Researcher of the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (Costech), Dr. Nicholaus Nyange says some laws can be attributed to the delayed efforts to solve the crop infections. For instance the liability clause, must be reviewed to pave way for scientists to do their job without fear.
“We are able to solve all these challenges using modern technology such as GM technology, Tissue Culture as well as Conventional Breeding. The law of liability is a hindrance,” he noted.
The people living in these communities are in dire need of food relief following an outbreak of these diseases that have destroyed 90% of the banana, maize and cassava crops.
Former Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Adam Malima recently told the National Assembly in Dodoma that the government has allocated 300 tons of maize to be distributed to people in the area.
HOW THE DISEASES ARE SPREAD
Banana bacterial wilt is spread by pollinating insects and agricultural tools and planting materials.
Cassava Brown Streak virus disease is a damaging disease and is especially troublesome in East Africa. It was first identified in 1936 in Tanzania, and has spread to other coastal areas of East Africa, from Kenya to Mozambique.
Banana Bacterial Wilt is a bacterial disease caused by Xanthomonas campestris pv. musacearum. After being originally identified on a close relative of banana, Ensete ventricosum, in Ethiopia in the 1960s, BXW emanated in Uganda in 2001 affecting all types of banana cultivars.
Maize Lethal Necrosis (CLN) is a serious new disease of maize appeared in the farmers’ fields in eastern Africa in 2011. CLN can devastate maize crops.
According to scientists the disease is difficult to control for two reasons: It is caused by a combination of two viruses that are difficult to differentiate individually based on visual symptoms.
Secondly: The insects that transmit the disease-causing viruses may be carried by wind over long distances.
Culled from article By Leonard Magomba, Monday, March 10/3/2014 for East African BUSINESS WEEK