Disease threatens maize farmers' livelihoods, say researchers

Wednesday May 20 2020


Farmers on their maize plantation in Eastern province. PHOTO | FILE  

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Local maize farmers are facing a new threat to their produce from the maize lethal necrosis (MLN). According to a study in the African Journal of Science, the disease can wipe out all of a farmer’s produce.

“The assessment of Maize Lethal Necrosis impact on maize production indicated that the disease had caused losses of up to 100 per cent and was threatening the production of this food security crop,” the study said.

While the Western, Northern and Southern provinces are affected, the Eastern province and Kigali city are less affected by the little known disease among the farmers.

Over 530 farmers from all the 30 districts responded during the research with around 45 per cent of them saying they knew little about the disease which destroys the infected plant and causes serious losses on the maize production. “Results also showed that a significantly higher number of respondents, 54.4 per cent, were not aware of maize lethal necrosis, which is a concern for its management,” research shows.

The study, Assessment of Maize Lethal Necrosis prevalence and its impact on maize production in Rwanda, mentioned Musanze district as the hotspot. First reported in 2011 in Kenya, the disease has been spreading through the seedlings.

Maize farmers say the disease was first reported when hybrid seeds were introduced in their communities. However, the researchers indicate that the disease that was first observed in the volcanic highlands of the country in February 2013, and later spread out the whole country, has been gradually fought back.