Vihiga county in fresh bid to promote banana farming
Vihiga County has embarked on a project to revive banana farming after containing a deadly viral disease that almost wiped out the crop in the area.
Banana Xanthomones Wilt (BXW), which has in the past left a trail of destruction in Uganda and parts of Kenya, particularly Busia and Siaya counties, caused panic in Vihiga in May 2016.
Farmers in Vihiga and neighbouring counties were then put on alert following the outbreak of the disease.
Experts from the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) joined forces with local agriculture officers to develop effective interventions that would control the spread of the disease.
Most farmers uprooted and buried all the affected crops to stop the disease mainly transmitted by insects such as bees and poor management of the crop.
Nicholas Malalu from Mwikusi village in Emuhaya was forced to uproot at least 1,000 suckers infected by the viral disease to prevent further spread into neighbouring farms.
He had earlier noticed signs which became conspicuous and severe, causing several suckers to dry up prematurely.
He told the Standard then that he did not know the crop had contracted a lethal disease. “I decided to inform local agriculture officers.”
But the disease could be a thing of the past as Vihiga County begins rallying farmers to revert to banana farming in a multimillion-shilling venture supported by the Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP).
Recently, Governor Wilbur Ottichilo donated a banana crisps processing machine to a group of banana farmers in Hamisi sub-county.
Members of Jitahidi Banana Cottage Processing group which benefited from the machine are prepared to take banana farming a notch higher.
"My government is creating an enabling environment for farmer groups to help residents create jobs,” said Ottichilo when he handed over the banana processing machine.
The county chief said his administration is ready to support banana farmers to create and benefit from the crop value chains and promote agribusiness.
Apart from processing crisps, Jitahidi group will also bake banana cakes and make banana jam and banana herbal wine, among other products.
Beatrice Kirundu, the 28-member group chairperson, said they were rearing to go even as the county administration promised to ensure the products get the green light from the Kenya Bureau of Standards.
Vihiga Agriculture chief officer Dominic Luvavo said they will help farmer groups to secure international markets for banana products.
So far, Dr Ottichilo has opened Banana aggregation centres at Shamakhokho, Wodanga and Chango in Hamisi, Sabatia and Vihiga sub-counties.
They will act as banana collection and selling centres in the county according to the governor.
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