[Rwanda] IITA unveils digital application in the fight against bacterial wilt disease in bananas
07-11-2019 08:16:26 | by: Bob Koigi | hits: 2726 | Tags:

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA, Rwanda, together with partners, has launched a digital Application which will serve more than 5,000 farmers across the country to diagnose, control and prevent Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW) in banana plantations.

BXW Application (also BXW-App; Pronounced “Box-Up”) provides a stepwise digital approach that empowers farmers to diagnose BXW in their fields and take immediate control action, as part of an early warning system to combat the disease and prevent its spread to neighboring plants/farmland.

BXW-App is now available on google play store, and any compatible android smartphone user can access, download, and use it to systematically diagnose BXW in banana farm, and do much more! The BXW App is being tested in 8 districts of Rwanda, including Gatsibo, Kayonza, Muhanga, Gisagara, Rulindo, Burera, Karongi and Rubavu with 69 Rwandan Farmer Promoters. However, any interest user across the Country can now access and use the application, which is configured to optimize user-experience in the national Kinyarwanda language.

“We think you cannot control what you cannot monitor. So we are convinced the first step in controlling BXW is to develop a functioning and automated system that enables real-time reporting and monitoring of the disease incidences, and empowers observers (farmers or any citizen) on the field to deploy relevant control measures,” says Dr. Julius Adewopo, who is leading the project – “Citizen science and ICT for advancing the prevention and control of Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (ICT4BXW)” at IITA-Rwanda.

The project is being implemented in collaboration with several partners, including Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resource Development Board (RAB), Bioversity International and Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Transition Economies (IAMO) with financial support of Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). The project aligns with the ICT for Rwanda in Agriculture (ICT4Rag) Strategy 2016-2020 by the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources.

By 2020, the project aims to have fully piloted the decision-support digital tool, reaching at least 5,000 banana farmers. After that, the project partners aim to secure a second phase during which the tool will be actively promoted for use at larger scale in Rwanda and elsewhere in the African Great Lakes region.

During a field visit to one of the focal districts for the testing of BXW-App, farmer promoters noted that the App has greatly facilitated their role, and improved their engagement with farmers to provide credible advisory support for banana production.

“Before this App for BXW was introduced to us, we were using papers, and walked long distance to report. Now we diagnose and report BXW incidence through the App (and phone) immediately. Moreover, when we are training farmers using the ICT4BXW Application, they are easily convinced, as they see that the information we are giving them are sourced from a credible source by going through all the steps together, seeing pictures that are displaying in the phone, showing various steps that are followed until it tells that the banana stem does not have BXW or it does,” Umutoni Mathilde, Farmer Promotor in Kayonza District said.

69 farmer promotors have been trained under this project in partnership with the Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resource Development Board (RAB), to use BXW-App for diagnosis and control of BXW in farmers’ fields. They have been also equipped with smartphones to facilitate their implementation of this pilot exercise.

“This application is helping to eyewitness the real signs of BXW in banana field. Before the BXW App, one would confuse BXW signs in a banana stem. For example, the plant sap that comes when you cut a banana stem, you would be confused whether it has BXW or not. But with BXW Application, it shows photos of how the infected plant sap looks like, in order for a farmer also to compare the signs in the App and what is on cut banana stem, then decide of BXW appearance in the field.” Emphasized Murenzi Vianney, Officer in charge of Agriculture in Kayonza District.

BXW Application was developed through an inclusive and participatory design process. It has now four modules. The first module introduces why it is important to control BXW, and the second module enables users to diagnose the disease by step-wisely observing the banana field/stands and answering questions as prompted by the app. The third module provides on-site recommendation for control of BXW, while the fourth module offers general agronomic information for banana management, as an add-on incentive to facilitate healthy and productive banana. The BXW Application may be extended to other African countries in the near future if piloting and scaling are successfully implemented in Rwanda.