Scaling BXW management in eastern DRC

The problem that is being tackled

Xanthomonas wilt of banana (BXW) is a serious bacterial disease with an ever-increasing presence in South Kivu Province, DR Congo. Outbreaks of the disease appear as localized ‘hotspots’, spreading rapidly to nearby farms by way of flying insects and contaminated farming tools. Banana plants wilt and the fruit becomes inedible. If nothing is done, BXW can cause the total loss a household’s banana harvest. An effective BXW management strategy called ‘complete mat uprooting’ has been widely disseminated to farmers, but adoption has been poor. Why? CMU is highly labour intensive, and also results in significant loss of banana productivity. We know that the eradication of BXW in Eastern Congo is virtually impossible, but also that infected bananas display a unique property allowing farmers to control the disease effectively and for little effort. This characteristic is the basis of a new technology called ‘Single Diseased Stem Removal’ that is ready to be disseminated to farmers at scale.


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

Farmers in South Kivu cite banana as being either their first- or second most important crop cited by farmers in much of South Kivu. Most grow banana for food or for sale. The ‘Broadening the Scaling of BXW Management’ works with the national agricultural research agency INERA and the extension agency IPAPEL to scale SDSR management to nearly 13,500 households in South Kivu, starting in late 2018 near Walungu. Although CMU has worked when incentivised through NGO cash- or food-for-work schemes, what happens if the disease returns? We expect a much higher autonomous rate of adoption on SDSR than with CMU, And the impact? A household with half a hectare of bananas, of which 10% of the bananas affected with BXW can expect a recovered productivity of at least 250kg per year valued at USD75. More food, more income.

CIALCA Pillars

Pillar 1: Partnerships and policies Pillar 2: Capacity Development Pillar 3: Innovation development and use
Scaling BXW management in DR Congo will require strong partnerships with local implementation partners.  Bioversity has contracted INERA (L’Institut national pour l’Etude et la Recherche Agronomiques) to coordinate and champion the scaling of BXW management in South Kivu Province. INERA will collaborate with extension agency IPAPEL (Inspection Provinciale de l’Agriculture, Pêche et Elevage) to recruit and train the field agronomists who will work directly with farmers. SDSR is a wholly 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. These messages will be conveyed through continual stakeholder engagement with learning resources and reflexive questioning to promote learning. By scaling SDSR practice in Burundi, this workstream directly contributes to innovation use for improved livelihoods. 13,500 households in eastern DR Congo will be enabled to maintain or increase their banana productivity and income.

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 (


This work stream is implemented in collaboration with: