Policy action for BXW management in Rwanda (Scaling Fund)

The problem that is being tackled

Complete mat uprooting (CMU) is practiced in Rwanda to manage banana Xanthomonas Wilt of banana (BXW) outbreaks. CMU is highly labour intensive and can result in a big loss of banana productivity. There is no compelling incentive for farmers to voluntarily practice this method when part of their livelihoods depend on the banana, and the wait time for banana recovery after CMU is unaffordable for many. When enforced in Rwanda, CMU requires intensive labour, and it is often implemented through collective action at community level. In some of these places the disease has been ‘eradicated, only to return to the same location at a later point in time, requiring permanent and consistently coordinated efforts. The current practice of mobilizing collective action in Rwanda to practice CMU for BXW control, at significant public cost, may be unsustainable, and indicates that farmers should be empowered to voluntarily control BXW by adopting the proven alternative cost-effective approaches.

The CIALCA solution

A BXW infection on a single banana plant does not mean the other plants growing from the same mat will get sick. CIALCA-supported research has shown most will stay perfectly healthy. Single Diseased Stem Removal – SDSR – allows farmers to only cut down the individual plants plant showing symptoms at soil level, sterilizing cutting tools afterwards using fire. Regardless of the initial severity of the disease, a farmer practicing SDSR is able to achieve an infection level of under 2% within 3 months. Over time, the mat will fully recover. All for little effort, and without an unnecessary loss of banana productivity.

How it contributes to improving livelihoods

Rwanda has one of the highest levels of banana consumption in the world. Most farmers grow banana for food or for sale. The ‘Broadening the Scaling of BXW Management’ project engages with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) to build support for a BXW management and policy alternative based on SDSR. Such a policy will greatly reduce BXW management costs for both Government and farmers. We expect a higher rate of voluntary adoption on SDSR than with is the case with CMU, thus increasing banana productivity and income for farmers across Rwanda.

CIALCA Pillars

Pillar 1: Partnerships and policies Pillar 2: Capacity Development Pillar 3: Innovation development and use
Scaling BXW management in Rwanda requires supportive national policy. By closely working with the Ministry of Agriculture and RAB in activity planning and implementation, for example the joint establishment of field demonstration sites comparing CMU with SDSR performance, we aim to build a better scientific understanding and buy-in for envisaged policy change. SDSR is a entirely new approach for managing BXW, and for good scaling results all stakeholders need to recognize, understand and accept a number of new ‘truths’. For example, that BXW cannot be eradicated, and that excellent results are possible for farmers who practice SDSR even if their neighbours do not. It is also important to demonstrate the cost efficiencies of SDSR, which will be done by way of a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis. The envisaged project outcome is a policy environment which provides for SDSR as a management option for BXW.  The ‘innovation development’ in this project will be the pathway towards the implementation of such a policy.

Must-read publication

If you want to learn more about BXW management in Central Africa, then please read:

Blomme, G., Ocimati, W., Sivirhauma, C., Vutseme, L., van Schagen, B., Ekboir, J. & Ntamwira, J. (2017). A control package revolving around the removal of single diseased banana stems is effective for the restoration of Xanthomonas wilt infected fields. European Journal of Plant Pathology 149(2): 385–400.

More info and outputs

Mr Boudy van Schagen, Bioversity Scaling Fund Manager (b.vanschagen@cgiar.org)


This work stream is implemented in collaboration with:

  • Bioversity International
  • International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA)
  • Rwanda Ministry of Agriculture
  • Rwanda Agriculture Board