Magazine article African Business

Bananas Wilt under Museveni Campaign

Magazine article African Business

Bananas Wilt under Museveni Campaign

Article excerpt

Uganda's President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni's quest for a third term in office is, according to locals, threatening the country's banana crop by helping to spread a bacterial infection that decimates plantations.

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Almost all of the 9.5m tons of bananas that Uganda produces annually is consumed domestically in the form of the staple cooking banana, matoke; the edible bugoya fruit banana or fermented as waragi (commonly known as 'kill me quick"), the popular and potent local liquor.

Bananas are not only central to the diet of most of Uganda's 23m citizens but are also, in rural areas, the most important source of income. The bacterial 'banana wilt' rots the fruit, leaving it inedible.

The move to amend Uganda's constitution to allow Museveni to run for a third five-year term is popularly known as kisanja and is symbolised by dry banana leaves. Kisanja supporters adorn themselves--and Museveni--with dry banana leaves and wave them in the air. It is a common sight for motorcycle taxis, known as bodabodas, to arrive at rallies in a cloud of diesel fumes and piled high with dry banana leaves.

But there is concern that transporting dry banana leaves around the country is helping to spread the deadly banana wilt.

Methods of transmission

Five miles north of the capital Kampala is the National Agricultural Research Organisation, home since 1989 to the Banana Research Programme headed by Dr Wilberforce Tushemereire. His 40-strong team is carrying out a study to find exactly how big a threat kisanja is in spreading banana wilt. …

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