Banana is the major staple food crop in Tanzania and in other countries of the East African Great Lakes region. Kagera Region is one of the most banana producing regions in Tanzania and banana production is the most important staple food for over two million people in the region. Banana crop is also the source of income for millions of people in this region. Despite the significance of banana in the region for food security and the farmers’ income and livelihoods, the crop has been mostly threatened by the Banana Xanthomonas wilt (BXW) which has lead to great losses of banana production in the region. BXW is currently the most destructive emergent disease in Tanzania which may cause up to 100% plantation loss if no management and control measures are employed.

The study generally aimed to assess the effects of the BXW on food security and income of the farmers in Nshamba and Rubale divisions of Muleba and Bukoba Rural Districts respectively in Kagera Region, Tanzania. Specifically the study intended to (a) identify economic activities performed by the people in the study area; (b) examine the farmers’ awareness of the BXW and its management and control measures in the study area; and (c) assess the effects of the BXW on food security and the income of rural community members. A cross-sectional research design was employed and both purposive and simple random techniques were used to select a sample of 360 farmers. As for data collection, the structured questionnaire was used. Both quantitative and qualitative methods of data analysis were employed. The quantitative data were analyzed by using the Statistical Product and Service Solutions (SPSS) (Version 16).

The majority of the respondents that were interviewed reported farming as their main activity. The study found that before the outbreak of BXW banana production was 356,545 bunches per annum; while after the outbreak of BXW the production has decreased to only 50,800 bunches (16.6%). This therefore implies that about 84% of banana production is lost per annum in the study area. It was also revealed that as production decreases, the price of banana bunches increases. The income from banana in the study area has dwindled from TZS. 801, 656,000/= to 307,034,248/= (38.3%) after the outbreak of BXW in the study area. This implies that TZS. 494,621,752 (61.7%) of the farmers’ income is lost annually in the Region. Therefore, immediate intervention measures should be taken to reduce the effects of the disease to the community in order to improve their livelihoods.

The study also found that the majority of the respondents (about 87%) are currently getting only one meal per day as compared to the previous years before the outbreak of BXW when they could afford to get three meals daily. This implies food insecurity for the majority of the farmer households; and immediate control measures are required to remedy the situation. The study concluded that banana production has declined significantly leading to food insecurity, malnutrition and loss of income of the rural community members in the study area. The study recommends that the government should recruit extension officers in the study area and elsewhere in Kagera region in order to create awareness and sensitization to the farmers on the spread, management and control measures of the disease. The study also recommends that strategies developed and validated in Uganda should be replicated in the study area, Kagera Region as well as other regions of Tanzania for proper management and control of the BXW.

Moreover, the study recommends that the government should establish strategies to empower farmers and other key stakeholders with capacity, knowledge and skills needed to control the disease alongside the efforts of other state and non-state actors. The government and all actors in banana production areas should be advised to execute comprehensive strategies and enforce legislations pertaining to agricultural diseases control and management. The government should recruit more agricultural extension officers, and the farmers should be encouraged to use the management and control measures as recommended by experts and researchers.

Further studies are recommended to address the main causal factors that were established by the study, which include ignorance, negligence, mindset and poor knowledge. Strategies to combat BXW should be applied together with the efforts to address other cross cutting issues like gender inequality, HIV/AIDS and environmental problems. In addition, technical studies should be carried out to establish more scientific facts and additional measures that will be utilized to combat BXW in Tanzania and beyond. The study finally calls upon the international community to join the Tanzanian Government as stakeholders in research, technology transfer and knowledge dissemination in order to establish the causes, symptoms, effects, management and control of the disease.

Key words: BXW, effects, food security, income, management and control

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