Malawi growers begin to bounce back after banana blight

Back in 2016, the devastating Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV) ruined the livelihoods of Malawi's 185,000 farming households, dependent on banana revenues. The disease spread across 11 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including Malawi.

According to Malawi's Ministry of Agriculture, the BBTD was detected just after the turn of the millennium in Nkhata Bay some 700km north of Maulidi's field. Believed to have been brought in by smugglers, the disease spread across the country leaving farmers destitute. Plants infected with BBTV at an early growth stage are severely dwarfed and do not bear fruit.

Agricultural extension workers saw the banana crop devastation in their districts of operation in Thyolo and Mulanje, where previously banana growing was the mainstay for farmers.

Malawi embarked on the efforts to revamp the banana sector in 2019 as part of a five-year programme funded by the European Union and the FAO in collaboration with the country's Ministry of Agriculture. Sandra Paersen, the EU ambassador to Malawi, said: "It is encouraging to see so many more bananas in less than a year."

Harold Katondo, deputy agricultural research officer at Bvumbwe Agricultural Research Station in Thyolo says the farmers are starting to see success because they are following the advice of the experts.

"The virus is economically destructive," he told modernghana.com. "It affects bananas worldwide and that's why the farmers have been cooperative. They understand the importance and potential of this new disease free crop."


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