Tue. Sep 22nd, 2020

Supporting Farmers

Rwanda handling passion fruit diseases

5 min read

©FAO/Teopista Mutesi. A passion fruit farmer in Rwamagana district poses with ripe fruits from his garden. He will benefit from an FAO project

19/02/2018Marie Constance Mukamwiza is an enthusiastic farmer in Gishari, Rwamagana district. She is involved more in horticulture, growing avocadoes, mangoes, passion fruits and other crops on an Eight hectare of land. However, recently, she had to uproot two hectares of her passion fruits due to the Passion fruit Diseases that has already devastated many farms in her district and other parts of the country.
The crop was a few months to harvest when they started drying up.
She lost about 12 million Rwandan francs (approx. 14,000 US Dollars). For a mother looking after three children and a husband who is not employed, that was a setback in her farming activities and the family’s welfare.
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On the district level, the diseases reduced passion fruit production from 18 tons a week to 12 tons in the last months of 2017, losing over 8,500 US Dollars.
Passion fruit started to be grown in Rwanda as a commercial crop largely after 1994. The government of Rwanda is committed to promoting passion fruit farming to increase the export of the crop. Diseases like Passion Fruit Woodiness (PWD) started manifesting in the country in 2002. The infected fruit misshapen and the pericarp becomes hard and thick.
Poor farming methods to blame
According to the Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB), during the distribution of seedlings, farmers received seedlings affected by PWD which contributed to rapid and wide spread of the disease.
The farmers say their lack of techniques of caring for the passion fruits caused them to pay the cost coupled with getting seedlings from unreliable nurseries.

“I had brought unknowingly diseased seedlings, when I planted them in my garden the disease surfaced later in the late stages of the crop growth,” says Marie Constance
“We lacked reliable source of seedlings we would buy them anywhere they are being sold and in the end we planted diseased seedlings,” says Hakomerimana Jean Claude a youth farmer and represents one of the cooperatives of passion fruit farmers in the district.
Timely intervention
Passion fruit is one of the highest money fetching crop in Rwanda, the farm gate price of a kilo is between 1,500 and 550 Rwandan francs.
Last month, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) launched the project “Support to passion fruit value chain in Rwanda” in three Districts; Rwamagana, Rutsiro and Gakenke, seeking to eradicate the Passion fruit Woodiness Disease (PWD) and improve living standards and income security of passion fruit farmers through increased production.
The annual passion fruit production in Rwanda is currently estimated at 7,000 MT dominated by purple variety.
“The project has come at the right time, many smallholder farmers were discouraged to venture into passion fruit farming, actually, the only farmers who remained in the business were those who had large hectares,” says Bikorimana Felicien, a cash crop officer at Rwamagana district.
Rajab Uwineza, a farmer, who attended the brief introduction of the project is already excited about it saying that the skills he will acquire will help him improve his farming activities and therefore better the life of his family. He’s opportunistic that with boosted productivity of his passion fruit will be able to one day establish a processing factory.
Availing healthy and reliable seedlings
The project will develop nurseries in the three target districts on 60 hectares producing 60,000 disease-free passion fruit seedlings.
The multiplication and distribution of free disease seedlings will contribute to increased production and restoration of livelihoods and income for affected farmers as well as strengthening the prospects for sustainability and long term management of the Passion fruit Woodiness Disease.

Extensionists at their disposal
Agricultural Extension workers and Farmer Field School (FFS) facilitators selected by the Government through the Rwanda Agriculture Board and FAO will be availed something the farmers say lacked as the agronomists have to deal with many farmers.
“You find that the district agronomist is looking at cases arising from coffee, banana and other crops. He/she already has many farmers to follow up with, by the time he/she comes to the passion fruit plantation the disease has almost wreaked havoc,” says Bikorimana Felicien.
Training all involved
All those involved in the passion fruit value chain such as, producers, dealers and farmers association will be trained through Farmers Field Schools (FFS) on how to grow disease-free seedlings and fighting and preventing Passion fruit Woodiness Disease thus increasing production therefore bettering the livelihoods of the farmers who depend on the crop as well as processors and exporters. The national capacity for viral disease identification, diagnosis and surveillance will be reinforced in the selected districts to contain and prevent further occurrences of the disease.

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