Cassava Brown Streak Disease has broken out in Western, Northern and Luapula provinces presenting a major threat to crop productivity in the three areas of the country, Agriculture Minister Michael Katambo has disclosed.

Speaking during a press briefing in Lusaka, Monday, Katambo said an official survey conducted found the Cassava Brown Streak virus in Chiengi, Kaputa, Kabompo, Zambezi, Solwezi and Chavuma districts.

“Cassava is the second most important food crop that is currently consumed mostly in the northern half of the country. Cassava is also important as a commercial and value-addition crop in the brewery and mining industry. It is grown at varying levels in seven provinces of the country, namely; Northern, Luapula, North-Western, Western, Lusaka and Eastern. Prior to 2018, cassava production has been facing constraints relating to pest infestation, notably cassava mealy bugs, cassava green mites and diseases like the cassava mosaic and blights. This year, the new spread of the Cassava Brown Streak Disease presents a major threat to the cassava crop, especially in North-Western, Northern and Luapula provinces. The Cassava Brown Streak Disease causes damage to the leaves, stems and roots of the cassava plant,” Katambo announced.

“According to the official surveys conducted so far, the Cassava Brown Streak Virus has been found in Chiengi, Kaputa, Kabompo, Zambezi, Solwezi and Chavuma districts. In Chiengi and Kaputa districts, 29 cassava fields were surveyed out of which 23 fields were found to be infected with the disease, while in Kabompo and Chavuma districts, 9 cassava fields had the Cassava Brown Streak Virus out of the 12 fields surveyed. This clearly indicates the severity of the disease occurrence in these affected areas causing concern by the Ministry. This, therefore, calls for concerted efforts by the Ministry, farmers and other stakeholders to fight the disease out-break.”

He said the Ministry currently needs more than K5 million to contain the disease, which he said is capable of spreading quickly.

“In order to manage the spread of the Cassava Brown Streak Disease, the following strategies are being employed by the Ministry: Encouraging use of disease-free planting materials and resistant varieties; restricting the movement of planting materials from areas where the disease has been detected to disease free-areas; training extension workers and farmers on disease management practices and disease identification; strengthening phytosanitary and quarantine systems, as well as improving seed regulatory systems for cassava; strengthening research by developing disease-resistant varieties of cassava, and establishing early disease detection systems and conducting monitoring surveys. In undertaking these strategies, an estimated financial amount of K5,508,800 is required to effectively manage and contain the disease,” said Katambo.

“Fellow farmers, I wish to urge you to plant disease-free planting materials and avoid sharing the cassava cuttings among yourselves as this helps to spread the disease. Further, where the fields are affected with the Cassava Brown Streak Disease, all the plants should be uprooted and destroyed. Farmers wishing to plant or replant the crop are encouraged to get in touch with our extension officers who will in turn provide clean planting materials that are developed and tested by the Zambia Agriculture Research Institute in Chilanga. I urge all farmers to be alert of the Cassava Brown Streak Disease and to report any suspected disease in their cassava fields to the nearest agricultural extension officers.”