Herbal pesticide emerge as a cheap solution to banana disease

A herbal pesticide made of tree and unique grass varieties has assisted over 10,000 Ugandan banana farmers fight the dreaded Banana wilt disease responsible for over half of losses in yields, a discovery, once approved by  scientists, could provide a simple pest control method to over 85 percent of East Africans who rely on banana for income and food.

Sam segirinya who has come up with the pesticide says he couldnt just sit and watch as farmers spent a fortune in pest control conventional pesticides that were not working. His herbal pesticide, dubbed 'real banana' has earned him the trust and love of farmers who have positive results from its usage.
 “The loss of many banana plantations in Buganda region to the disease posed a challenge which struck my eyes. I felt that I should be part of a solution to this menace and therefore I embarked on serious research about the bacteria,” he said.

Sam started the journey top this discovery in 2008 by mixing out a variety of grass and tree species with an aim of defeating the bacteria. As fate would have it, his first breakthrough came in 3 years later in 2011 when he got positive results. “I made several samples for the bacteria and finally it died. I made more from the successful sample and issued to farmers freely and was glad when the response was hugely positive,” he explained.  Sam added, “Several farmers who had used my pesticide and got positive results market to their counterparts and soon my pesticide became a household name especially in Buganda.”

The positive results attained from the pesticide prompted Sam to produce it for commercial basis. However he is cautious on the issue as he notes that he is yet to receive official nod from the authorities to go commercial. “There are many farmers who keep on coming and requesting for the real banana and that has compelled me to sell the product but strictly to those who demand it.” With support from the Mengo government, Buganda’s local government headed by Kabaka, Sam has reached and impacted over 10,000 local farmers positively by ensuring that banana wilt do not deter them from cultivating their delicacy.

Despite the success stories from the field, the authorities in the agricultural ministry have reservations over the effectiveness of real banana pesticide.  Dr. Andrew Kiggundu from Kawanda Research Institute who spearheaded research  on the effectiveness of the pesticide under the request of National Agricultural Research Organization NARO noted that although their findings are not conclusive, farmers should use it cautiously because it never gave positive results in two samples. “The developer gave us the first sample and it did not kill the bacteria both in the lab and on plants," explained Dr. Kiggundu. Surprisingly, Kiggundu notes that the second sample showed some positive signs as it managed to kill the bacteria in the lab though it was unable to kill the bacteria on plants.

Sam is however encouraged by the results from NARO. “I am happy that their preliminary findings showed some positive results but I’m sure that the product is effective.Their findings also showed that the pesticide is environmentally friendly with no negative effects on land and that is a big milestone for me,” he said.

According to Sam however, out of the 38 species he mixes to make real banana, only eight can be accessed locally in Uganda and the rest are found in Kenya, and Congo. This is a challenge he is well prepared to face as he acknowledges that he has started planting the rare species he sources outside the country and therefore with time, it will a forgotten mishap.

Nonetheless, Sam feels now more than ever energized to venture into more research to avail solutions to farmers especially after witnessing his first success with real banana pesticide. To ascertain to this fact, is the already developed pesticide that only treats cassava mosaic by this young innovative man. “I will keep on innovating and developing my product in order to achieve the ultimate goal of poverty eradication through sustainable farming,” he said.

Written by Julius Omondi for African Laughter