Cassava brown streak disease has hit several sub-counties in Kasese district destroying many acres of the crop.
Some of the affected are farmers groups in Mubuku irrigation scheme, Karusandara, Muhokya, Mahango, Maliba, Bugoye, and Kisinga sub- counties.
The signs of Cassava streak disease are rotting tubers, which are unfit for human consumption, according to agricultural experts.
According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation, cassava mosaic disease and cassava streak disease are the greatest constraints to the production of the crop.
Cassava streak disease is spread by whiteflies and propagation of infected cuttings.
Often farmers only learn about cassava mosaic disease at harvest, when they reap corky tubers that also have yellow-brown necrotic rot.
To stem the spread of the disease, the District Production Coordinator, Theresa Munyanzikwiye, has issued a directive that all infected plants be uprooted. She says the directive will be enforced strictly.
The district production office is also encouraging farmers to plant the varieties resistant to Cassava Brown Streak disease and these can be identified by its serial number.
Cassava Brown Streak Disease was first reported in Mubuku irrigation scheme and district leaders blame ignorance, which has led to spread to other parts of Kasese.
Ezra Turyahabwe, the Karusandara LC3 chairperson, says a team was formed at the sub-county to sensitise farmers about the disease.
“Most farmers are suffering loses silently, but we have engaged a team of agriculturalists to sensitise them about the disease outbreak so they can uproot infected crops and plant new tubers,” said Turyahabwa.
The disease is going to cause shortage of cassava cuttings in the region as all the affected sub-counties have been reliable sources of cassava cuttings for farmers.
Benson Bwambale, a resident of Maliba sub-county, whose garden has been affected, fears that there is a looming threat of famine in the district.
"Cassava is the main food crop in our area. Most residents also depend on it to generate income and now that our crop has been destroyed, we anticipate hunger," said Bwambale.
"I planted 17 acres of cassava and I was expecting to start harvesting in May, but my garden was destroyed by the disease," laments Innocent Masereka a cassava farmer in Kichwamba sub-county.
Masereka said he was expecting at least sh20m, but the disease outbreak has dashed his hopes.
"My entire plantation was destroyed. The disease has caused huge losses and that will affect our lives and our families because we depend on cassava our daily bread," said Masereka.
George Mugisa, a farmer in Mubuku irrigation scheme, said it was the first time his crop was attacked by the disease.
"But we have been advised that the only solution is to uproot all the tubers," said Mugisa.
Beatrice Komuhendo, another farmer in Mubuku, said the majority of residents in Kasese depended on cassava from the scheme to support their families, educate their children and cater for their other needs.
Komuhendo appealed to the government to send officers to rescue the farmers out of the situation.
"I have uprooted all 13 acres of my crop. I was expecting a lot of money since I had invested heavily in the garden," said Komuhendo.
Facts on cassava brown streak disease
- Cassava brown streak virus disease (CBSD) is a damaging disease of cassava plants
- It was first identified in 1936 in Tanzania, and has spread to other coastal areas of East Africa.
- Recently, it was found that two distinct viruses are responsible for the disease: cassava brown streak virus (CBSV) and Ugandan cassava brown streak virus (UCBSV).
- The name brown streak was given to the disease from the brown lesions which sometimes appear on young green stems.
- The symptoms of CBSD in cassava normally affect mature or nearly mature leaves.
- They consist of a characteristic yellow or necrotic vein banding which may enlarge and coalesce to form comparatively large, yellow patches.
- Tuberous root symptoms may also be present: these include: dark-brown necrotic areas within the tuber and reduction in root size; lesions in roots can result in post-harvest spoilage of the crop.
- Leaf and/or stem symptoms can occur without the development of tuber symptoms.
- The symptoms of the disease vary greatly with variety and environmental conditions.