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New cassava illness strikes in Mara

Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) is spreading at an alarming rate in almost all districts of Mara Region, thus threatening the major food crop that is widely grown in the lake zone, researchers have warned.

Researchers from Ukiruguru Institute have now recommended alternative food crops such as millet and lentils to be grown in all districts of the region without delay, warning that there will be no cassava plants in the area after a year from now.

The new cassava disease that spots rotten cassava roots, threatens food security in the region with over 1.6 million population, according to the Regional Agricultural Advisor, Mr Samweli Sasi. “Earlier, CBSD was reported in the neighbouring Ukerewe District of Mwanza Region but it has spread very fast in Rorya, Musoma and Bunda districts.

Ukiruguru has conducted the study now in all districts of Mara region and the problem is big because they have not yet come up with alternative cassava seeds to meet the demand of wananchi," Mr Sasi said in his latest report to regional business council meeting here on Wednesday.

The report shocked the meeting with the Mara Regional Tanzania Chamber of Commerce Industry and Agriculture Mr Lazaro Magira calling for a quick permanent solution in preventing further spread of the diseases among other things. "This is a threat and that is why researchers have suggested alternative food crops but this is not a permanent solution and I am worried if wananchi are aware of the researchers findings," the TCCIA leader said.

Mara Regional Commissioner (RC) Mr Issa Machibya banned transporting cassava seeds in a bid to contain the disease in the area. The RC also informed the meeting that sufficient millet seeds have been distributed across the region to rescue the situation. “At least every home should plant not less than two hectares of millet and seeds have been distributed everywhere," the regional chief said.

Bunda District Commissioner Mr Chiku Gallawa said all kind of cassava seeds available in the region are in danger of being affected by the disease. “All seeds are likely to be affected and researchers have hinted that by next year there will be no cassava. The focus should be having one voice and going for alternative food crops to address the challenge we face ahead, " Ms Gallwa told the meeting.

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