By Justin KAYIRANGA
Kigali: From the 3rd June to the 4th June 2021, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and Rwanda Agricultural and Animal resources Board (RAB) together with partners, are discussing how android-based BXW application (BXW App) can be made available to all banana farmers across the country.
The BXW app was developed under the auspices of ICT4BXW Project (www.ict4bxw.come), and it has proven to be a promising digital tool that empowers farmers (and farmer promoters) to prevent and control Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW).
Dr. Adewopo Julius, ICT4BXW Project Leader at IITA, explained that the technology has been developed and tested in phase one, and the Project Team is set to promote its use across the country by leveraging lessons that were gathered through experiences with farmers and in farmers’ fields.
“In phase one we co-developed a tool together with Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) and other partners, and we tested it, so we are taking the next logical step of putting the tool in the hands of more users.” Says Dr. Julius.
He continued: “To do that, we want to be strategic and be intentional in every step we take. Therefore, we consider that it is important to have a workshop like this that can help everybody to understand where we’ve been, where we are, where we are going, what exactly are we trying to deliver, and how are we going to deliver it”
According to the study that was conducted during Phase One, it was found that the previous method required the farmer to uproot all banana trees once a banana tree is infected with the bacterial wilt.
However, with this digital tool, farmers are empowered to detect which banana tree is infected, and they are guided to safely remove it immediately instead of uprooting all plantations.
This is considered to be the answer to the problem of the decline of banana trees that appeared in different parts of the country as explained by Dr. Svetlana Gaidashova, Banana Researcher at RAB.
She said: “In the past years it was a disaster because of the strategy of uprooting the whole banana plantation. So, bananas disappeared from many places as all plantations must be uprooted, farmers had to switch to other crops and banana production has declined somehow due to those measures.”
“By using this tool, farmers will be able to control disease without uprooting the whole banana plantation. It means they have better food security in terms of keeping the banana plant and progressively getting rid of the disease.” Dr. Svetlana explains
BXW Application provides a stepwise digital approach that empowers farmers to diagnose Banana Xanthomonas Wilt to their fields and take immediate control action, as part of an early warning system to combat the disease and prevent its spread to neighbouring plants/farmland.
Though the app will be introduced to farmers across the country, some challenges are still expected, including the fact that there are farmers who are not accustomed to the use of digital technology while others do not have smartphones which is required to use the current application.
But there is a hope that through the CONNECT RWANDA Campaign, more farmers will receive smartphones and can access/use the application at will. Also, the project team is exploring options to deliver the various components of BXW-App through other channels that can be accessed on basic and feature phones, which are commonly used by farmers.
Since 2019, the tool has been tested in 8 districts namely Gatsibo, Kayonza, Muhanga, Gisagara, Rulindo, Burera, Karongi and Rubavu. However, any interested user across the Country can access and use the application, which is configured to optimize user-experience in the national Kinyarwanda language.