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Development of ICT Innovation Expected to Help in Fight Against Banana Disease in Rwanda — Global Issues

  • by Aimable Twahirwa (kigali)
  • Tuesday, September 25, 2018
  • Inter Press Service

In Rwanda the banana disease BXW is detrimental to a crop and has far-reaching consequences not only for farmers but for the food and nutritional security of their families and those dependent on the crop as a source of food. Credit: Alejandro Arigón/IPS

“I was thinking that it was the unusually dry weather causing damage to my crop,” Ruzigamanzi, who lives in Rwimishinya, a remote village in Kayonza district in Eastern Rwanda, tells IPS.

But in fact, it was a bacterial disease.

Ruzigamanzi’s crop was infected with Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW), a bacterial disease that affects all types of bananas and is known locally as Kirabiranya. 

Here, in this East African nation, BXW is detrimental to a crop and has far-reaching consequences not only for farmers but for the food and nutritional security of their families and those dependent on the crop as a source of food.

Banana is an important crop in East and Central Africa, with a number of countries in the region being among the world’s top-10 producers, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization Corporate Statistical Database.

According to a household survey of districts in Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda, banana accounts for about 50 percent of the household diet in a third of Rwanda’s homes.

But the top factor affecting banana production in all three countries, according to the survey, was BXW.

Researchers have indicated that BXW can result in 100 percent loss of banana stands, if not properly controlled.

Complacency and lack of information contribute to spread of the disease

The BXW disease is not new to the country. It was first reported in 2002. Since then, there have been numerous, rigorous educational campaigns by agricultural authorities and other stakeholders, including non-governmental organisations.

Farmers in Ruzigamanzi’s region have been trained by a team of researchers from the Rwanda Agriculture Board and local agronomists about BXW. But Ruzigamanzi, a father of six, was one of the farmers missed by the awareness campaign and therefore lacked the knowledge to diagnose the disease.

Had he known what the disease was, and depending on its state of progress on the plant, Ruzigamanzi would have had to remove the symptomatic plants, cutting them at soil level immediately after first observation of the symptoms. If the infection is uncontrolled for a long time, he would have had to remove the entire plant from the root.

And it is what he ended up doing two weeks later when a visiting local agronomist came to look at the plant.

By then it was too late to save the banana stands and Ruzigamanzi had to uproot all the affected mats, including the rhizome and all its attached stems, the parent plant and its suckers.

Ruzigamanzi’s story is not unique. In fact, a great number of smallholder farmers in remote rural regions have been ignoring or are unaware of the symptoms of this bacterial banana infection. And it has increased the risk of spreading of the disease to new regions and of resurgence in areas where it had previously been under control. Several districts in eastern Rwanda have been affected by the disease in recent years.

An enumerator for the ICT4BXW project conducting a baseline assessment of Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW), a bacterial disease, status in Muhanga district, Rwanda. Courtesy: Julius Adewopo/ International Institute of Tropical Agriculture

Using technology to strengthen rural farmers and control spread of BXW

Early 2018, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), in partnership with Bioversity International, the Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Transition Economies and the Rwanda Agriculture Board, commenced a collaborative effort to tackle the disease through the use of digital technology. IITA scientists are exploring alternative ways of engaging farmers in monitoring and collecting data about the disease. The institute is renowned for transforming African agriculture through science and innovations, and was recently announced as the Africa Food Prize winner for 2018.

The new three-year project (named ICT4BXW), which launched with a total investment of 1.2 million Euros from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, seeks to explore the use of mobile phones as tools to generate and exchange up-to-date knowledge and information about BXW.

The project builds on the increasing accessibility of mobile phones in Rwanda. According to data from the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority, this country’s mobile telephone penetration is currently estimated at 79 percent in a country of about 12 million people, with a large majority of the rural population currently owning mobile phones.

“Our ongoing effort to develop, test, and deploy smart or normal mobile applications is a critical step towards cost-effective monitoring and control of the disease spread,” says Julius Adewopo, who is leading the BXW project at IITA. He further explained that, “Banana farmers in Rwanda could be supported with innovations that leverages on the existing IT infrastructure and the rapidly increasing mobile phone penetration in the country.”

Central to the project is the citizen science approach, which means that local stakeholders, such as banana farmers and farmer extensionists (also called farmer promoters), play leading roles in collecting and submitting data on BXW presence, severity, and transmission. Moreover, stakeholders will participate in the development of the mobile application and platform, through which data and information will be exchanged.

About 70 farmer promoters from eight different districts in Northern, Western, Southern, and Eastern province will be trained to use the mobile phone application. They will participate in collecting and submitting data for the project—about incidence and severity of BXW in their village—via the platform. The project expects to reach up to 5,000 farmers through engagement with farmer promoters and mobile phones.

Further, data from the project will be translated into information for researchers, NGOs and policy makers to develop effective and efficient support systems. Similarly, data generated will feed into an early warning system that should inform farmers about disease outbreaks and the best management options available to them.

A real-time reporting system on the disease

While the existing National Banana Research Programme in Rwanda has long focused on five key areas of interventions with strategies used in the control or management of plant diseases, the proposed mobile-based solution is described as an innovative tool that it is easily scalable and flexible for application or integration with other information and communications technology (ICT) platforms or application interfaces.

“We observe limitations in the availability of reliable and up-to-date data and information about disease transmission patterns, severity of outbreaks, and effect of control measures,” Mariette McCampbell, a research fellow who studies ICT-enabled innovation and scaling on the ICT4BXW project, tells IPS. “We also have lack good socio-economic and socio-cultural data that could feed into farmer decision-making tools and an early warning system.”

The new reporting system intends to develop into an early warning system that will allow the Rwandan government to target efforts to mitigate the spread of BXW, it also aims to serve as a catalyst for partnerships among stakeholders to strengthen Banana production systems in the country.

“This innovation could enable real-time assessment of the severity of the disease and support interventions for targeted control,” explains Adewopo.

The project team is currently working hard to co-develop the ICT platform, with farmer promoters and consultants. By the second quarter of 2019, tests with a pilot version of the platform will start in the eight districts where the project is active.

The project team have already identified a variety of scaling opportunities for a successful platform.”Problems with Banana Xanthomonas Wilt are not limited to Rwanda, neither is it the only crop disease that challenges farmers. Therefore, our long-term goal is to adapt the platform such that it can be scaled and used in other countries or for other diseases or other crops,” McCampbell explains.

According to Adewopo, “the vision of success is to co-develop and deploy a fully functional tool and platform, in alignment with the needs of target users and with keen focus on strengthening relevant institutions, such as the Rwanda Agricultural Board, to efficiently allocate resources for BXW control and prevention through democratised ICT-based extension targeting and delivery.”

There is increasing need for smarter and faster management of risks that have limited production in agricultural systems.

In recognition of BXW’s terminal threat to banana crops, there is no doubt that the use of ICT tools brings a new hope for banana farmers, and can equitably  empower them through improved extension/advisory access, irrespective of gender, age, or social status – as long as they have access to a mobile phone.

*Additional reporting by Nalisha Adams in Johannesburg

© Inter Press Service (2018) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

Where next?





By Dr. Laura Wilhelm



Atelier du Miel


Atelier du Miel

One of the things that have changed between the Lebanon of my childhood and today’s Lebanon is that the Lebanese market scene is now filled to the brim with dynamic talent.  A perfect example is this honey producing company,  Atelier du Miel (tr. Honey Lab). From my vantage point, they ace every parameter. They are young and driven, creative, eco-conscious and filled with business-savvy; every so often, they come-up with fantastic ideas to promote their brand, such as workshops (making cool things using honey) or field trips to observe their beekeeping operation live.

I first noticed the actual honey, sold at their flagship boutique, as well as kiosks all over the city’s supermarkets and malls. In Lebanon in the olden days, one got a jar of honey, period! This time around, with L’Atelier du Miel, one gets to pick at least two dozen flavors based on what flower or herb the bees fancied. Each flavor is distinct and is recommended with certain foods or just plain with a piece of bread. I noticed eucalyptus, loquat, orange blossom, honeydew (forest trees such as cedar, oak or fir). In addition, these folks are offering pastries such as madeleine or financiers or the traditional mamouls made in partnership with a local NGO. Their gift packages include artisan honey dippers reflecting Lebanese tradition (glass-blown, brass, or inlaid wood).

Their business operating methods are eco-friendly: They are always on the move with their hives, from one location to the next, following blossoms and wildflowers as they appear throughout the country. After hearing about  dishonest honey producers who feed sugar syrup to their bees it was  heartening to meet folks who care and offer a pure, unadulterated product. Their bees are major travelers! Going North and South, feeding on banana, carob, cedar, Cherry, Clover, Eucalyptus, Fir, Jujube, Loquat, Oak, Cedar, Orange Blossom, Thistle, and Thyme blossoms , as well as wildflowers.

L’Atelier du Miel also opened a stylish restaurant and workshop in the trendy Mar Mikhael neighborhood and I had dinner there to check it out one balmy evening last Summer. The design of the restaurant is contemporary, Scandinavian, with neutral tones and a large outdoor terrace nestled between some crumbling old building. The menu was  bistro food, with an emphasis on fresh salads and every item had one of their honeys in the ingredient list. I loved the apple smoothie and  bulgur salad and my companion  the endive salad with julienned candied orange rind. We also tried a platter of honey samplers matched with various cubed cheeses and fruits. I’d  recommend this if you’d like to refine your honey knowledge, taste-wise.

Muted colors, greys, white and yellows and greens convey a peaceful feeling.

The sampler: A must if you want to learn something about honeys.

This bulgur salad was delightful and I would eat it every week if I could!

The apple dessert was my favorite.

This was a revisited tiramisu. The plating was a bit messy, the contrasts in flavors was just so-so. B+

L’Atelier du Miel also offers housemade confections (made with honey instead of sugar); since I crave sweets on a regular basis, but I am trying very hard to ban refined white sugar from my diet, I was tempted. I tried the mann wsalwa, a type of chewy divinity studded with nuts, and I tried the maamouls, both very good. In addition, they offer workshops at their restaurant location,in case you would like to  learn how to make candied chestnuts  and many other foodie delights, (all with honey, of course).

Medial tibial stress syndrome can be diagnosed reliably using history and physical examination


Medial tibial stress


The majority of sporting injuries are clinically diagnosed using history and physical examination as the cornerstone. There are no studies supporting the reliability of making a clinical diagnosis of medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS).


Our aim was to assess if MTSS can be diagnosed reliably, using history and physical examination. We also investigated if clinicians were able to reliably identify concurrent lower leg injuries.


A clinical reliability study was performed at multiple sports medicine sites in The Netherlands. Athletes with non-traumatic lower leg pain were assessed for having MTSS by two clinicians, who were blinded to each others’ diagnoses. We calculated the prevalence, percentage of agreement, observed percentage of positive agreement (Ppos), observed percentage of negative agreement (Pneg) and Kappa-statistic with 95%CI.


Forty-nine athletes participated in this study, of whom 46 completed both assessments. The prevalence of MTSS was 74%. The percentage of agreement was 96%, with Ppos and Pneg of 97% and 92%, respectively. The inter-rater reliability was almost perfect; k=0.89 (95% CI 0.74 to 1.00), p<0.000001. Of the 34 athletes with MTSS, 11 (32%) had a concurrent lower leg injury, which was reliably noted by our clinicians, k=0.73, 95% CI 0.48 to 0.98, p<0.0001.


Our findings show that MTSS can be reliably diagnosed clinically using history and physical examination, in clinical practice and research settings. We also found that concurrent lower leg injuries are common in athletes with MTSS.

Gazing Meditation


Gazing Meditation

You look at objects all day long, but did you know that just one of them can help calm and center you?

Google Doodle aims to help button up your voter registration


Google Doodle aims



The midterm elections in November are fast approaching, and Google wants to help you make sure you’re ready to participate.

As of Tuesday, election day is exactly six weeks away, so Google thought the time was right to use a Doodle adorned with campaign-like buttons to remind US voters to make sure they’re actually registered to pull the levers on Nov. 6.

The Doodle links to the Google search term “how to register to vote #RegisterToVote,” surfacing voter registration sites such as USA.gov and official resources at your state level. The sites include information on how and where to register, helping you determine whether you’re eligible to vote, and updating your registration information to ensure there are no holes in the process — until you actually punch them, that is.

The Doodle comes out amid a pivotal election, as Democrats appear to be in position to retake control of the House of Representatives. A CBS News poll released Sunday determined that Democrats would win 224 seats — or six more than 218 seats needed for a majority — if the elections were held Tuesday.

If you’re a fan of Google Doodles, keep an eye on them as the election draws closer. During 2016’s race for the White House, Google published a series of cute Doodles to remind voters to get out to their polling place. The Doodles included links to information about local measures and candidates on your specific ballot, where you can vote, and even how to vote in English and Spanish.

Doodling our world: Check out Google’s previous celebrations of people, events and holidays that impact our lives.

Cambridge Analytica: Everything you need to know about Facebook’s data mining scandal.

Cardi B’s Fashion Week Appeal Even Stronger After Fighting Nicki Minaj


Cardi B

Fashion World Wants Me More

After Nicki Shoe Attack

9/25/2018 1:00 AM PDT


Cardi B‘s gonna throw shoes on the reg if her still-fresh Nicki Minaj beef keeps paying off for her at Fashion Week … okurrr?

Sources close to Cardi tell TMZ the “I Like It” rapper has been on schedule and unfazed for Fashion Week in Milan these past few days … and, in fact, it seems squaring off with Nicki has only raised her profile. We’re told none of her appearances have been canceled, and no designers have pulled invitations that were sent pre-fight.

Cardi attended the Dolce & Gabbana show Sunday as planned, an event she’d been booked for well before her altercation earlier this month with Nicki.

While some might have expected prim and proper fashionistas to keep Cardi at arm’s length after her NYFW rumble — designers seem to be embracing her instead. She was all smiles while sitting front row at the Dolce & Gabbana show.

Hell, even Cardi’s sister, Hennessywalked the runway for the Philipp Plein show in Milan — a clear sign they were happy to have the MC show up and probably wanted her to, although she did not.

We’re told Cardi wasn’t concerned about Nicki’s schedule in Milan, or the possibility of running into her at any events. Nicki arrived in Milan 3 days before CB, but they were both there over the weekend. No fireworks.

Cardi’s now off to Paris for Fashion Week there, and sources say she’s going to 3 major shows.

No word if Nicki’s going, but seems the design houses wouldn’t mind if she did. Think WWE … but in stilettos.

Grain-free pumpkin tarts with Castello Marquis + walnut thyme crumb


Pumpkin tarts with Castello Marquis + walnut thyme crumb

I don’t know about you, but I feel like we got let off quite lightly this winter. With a bit of warmth in the air and as much blue skies as grey these past few weeks I find myself getting excited at the thought of the warmer months ahead, and all the good vibes they brings. You know, holidays, longer days, warmer nights, celebrations and catch-ups with friends, and food. Always food.
When Castello recently contacted me to work on a campaign for their newly released Castello Marquis cheese, I knew I wanted to come up with something that screams of good times. Admittedly I’m a bit of a wuss when it comes to strong cheeses,  I prefer mild creamy bries and havartis. If you’re like me, I have a feeling this buttery Marquis might be a little bit of you. Rich and creamy with just enough bite to let you know you’re not eating camembert, I like to think of it as the ice-breaker for people like me. Who knows, maybe if I eat enough of this I might one day grow up to like rich ripe blue cheese? Baby steps aye…

Knowing how full-flavoured the Marquis was I decided to pair it with naturally sweet pumpkin to round things out. The crisp grain-free tart cases are ah-mazing, and add a lovely earthy crunch. Further crunch comes in the form of a thyme-spiked honey-sweet walnut crumb scattered over top, though to be honest, those crumbs could just as easily find themselves strewn over porridge or yoghurt for breakfast… the perfect combination of salty, sweet and herbaceousness that I love. I can also imagine Marquis paring nicely with a salad of casually sliced chunks of peach, some toasted walnuts and a little rocket (arugula) come summer time, or topped with olive oil and thyme roasted grapes for a cheese board people will talk about for days…

GIVEAWAY: To be in the draw to win one of two $50 Castello cheese vouchers, head on over to my Facebook or Instagram page to enter.

Grain-free pumpkin tarts with Castello Marquis + walnut thyme crumb

Everything in these bite-sized tarts can be prepared well ahead of time and simply put together when required. You can find Castello Marquis in most New World and Pak ‘n’ Save supermarkets here in New Zealand. Elsewhere ask at your local supermarkets.

Makes 24 bite-sized tarts

Grain-free tart shells

100g (2/3 cup) sunflower seeds

70g (2/3 cup) tapioca flour

30g (1/4 cup) walnut pieces

2 tablespoons chia seeds

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/4 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons filtered water

Pumpkin puree

1kg piece pumpkin (about 1/4 medium pumpkin or 1 medium butternut squash)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon roughly chopped thyme leaves

A squeeze of lemon juice

Walnut thyme crumb

60g (1/2 cup) walnut pieces, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons roughly chopped thyme leaves

2 teaspoons honey, melted

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the grain-free tart cases, preheat oven to 180C (350F). Lightly grease 2 x 12-hole patty pan trays.

Combine sunflower seeds, tapioca, walnuts, chia, salt and baking powder in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Add apple cider vinegar and water, then pulse until the mixture comes together. Turn dough out onto your bench and knead lightly to bring it together. Place onto a sheet of baking paper and slightly flatten with your hands, top with another sheet of baking paper and roll out to approx. 3-4mm thick. Using a 6cm round cutter, cut rounds from the dough and line each patty pan, gently pushing the dough in with your fingers. Roll out the scraps and repeat until you have all 24 pan lined. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly golden, swapping trays around halfway to ensure even cooking. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for 5 minutes before transferring cases to a wire rack to cook further. These tart cases can be prepared up to 3 days in advance and stored in an airtight container.

While the tart cases are cooking, skin the pumpkin and cut into bite-sized pieces, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle over thyme, season with salt and pepper. Once the tart cases are out, roast the pumpkin 20-25 minutes or until tender and golden. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Once cool, puree into a small food processor until smooth, add a touch of lemon juice, check seasoning, then set aside until needed, or transfer to a covered container and refrigerate until needed. this can be done 2-3 days in advance.

When the pumpkin comes out of the oven, combine walnut pieces, thyme and honey on a small tray, season with salt and pepper, then toast 8-10 minutes, stirring often, until golden. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool and crisp up. This can be prepared 3 days in advance and stored in an airtight jar.

To serve, pipe or spoon a little pumpkin puree into each tart case, top with a generous slice of Castello Marquis, then scatter with a little walnut thyme crumb. Serve immediately.

Infographics and digital resources: an international consensus on golf and health


Consensus on golf


New knowledge from research findings rarely produces rapid efficient changes in practice.1 Barton and Merolli2 proposed a model which may help improve knowledge translation via the addition of two novel contemporary steps: multimedia creation and subsequent dissemination (see figure 1).

Figure 1

Figure 1

Visual representation of a process to improve knowledge translation based on Barton and Merolli’s model.2

Following this model, we recently produced digital/multimedia resources to help communicate and disseminate the International Consensus on Golf and Health.3

Research completion and publication

A systematic literature review and modified Delphi process underpinned the International Consensus on Golf and Health and this was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2018.3 The Consensus is intended to support (1) golfers and potential golfers; (2) golf facilities and the golf industry; and (3) policy makers to make evidence-informed decisions that can maximise the health benefits of golf and minimise the health risks associated with this sport.

Multimedia creation

Articles containing visual information are read three times more often than those without.4 Humans remember up to 6.5 times more through learning from visual imagery than by reading text alone.5 This makes sense. How many text-only adverts do you see? What is your reaction to a wordy PowerPoint presentation? We produced bite-sized resources (infographics, podcasts and video content) with the key messages stemming from the consensus statement.3

Infographics have been made to support end-user groups: (1) golf players/potential players; (2) the golf industry/facilities; and (ii) policy makers external to golf. These visual resources highlight the specific actions that can lead to the biggest gains in health and well-being related to golf (see figures 2–4). They complement published infographics regarding golf and health6 and maximising golf performance.7

Figure 2

Figure 2

Infographic. Tips to maximise health benefits of golf for golfers.

Figure 3

Figure 3

Infographic. What can the golf industry/golf facilities do to maximise the health benefits of golf?.

Figure 4

Figure 4

Infographic. Golf and Health: key actions for policy/decision makers.

Video content was designed to have broad interest. We featured leading players who had won multiple major championships as well as researchers, clinicians and public health ministers. These are available at www.golfandhealth.org. A podcast with more detail discussing the International Consensus on Golf on Health is available at https://soundcloud.com/bmjpodcasts/sets/bjsm-1. It offers researchers and others interested a ‘deeper dive’ into the methods and findings.

Dissemination and communication

Infographics and other multimedia/digital resources facilitate the sharing of key messages and engagement with research. They are not a substitute for reading the detailed peer reviewed article. Strategies8 for sharing content can include:

  • social media platforms (eg, via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and blogs)

  • email, plus or minus press release distribution

  • direct communications including discussions, meetings and presentations targeting relevant stakeholders.

We used these strategies to share our previous scoping review on golf and health.9 This approach to sharing new research may have contributed to this manuscript being the subject of over 90 press articles, a supportive Early Day Motion in the UK parliament and achieving an Altmetric score >1300.


Barton and Merolli’s model offer researchers strategies to increase the visibility of their work. After conducting an International Consensus on Golf and Health and publishing it in the BJSM, we shared bite-sized multimedia resources to assist the dissemination and communication of the consensus. The BJSM is well positioned to support researchers who wish to produce similar digital resources. Options include, but are not limited to, co-producing podcast and blog content, and sharing purpose-created digital resources via popular Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube platforms.


The authors thank Nanette Mutrie, Paul Kelly, Liz Grant for academic input and Jorge Rodriguez, Aston Ward, Ed Hodge and Steffan Griffin for their help in creating the infographics, video and podcast content.


Chicken Jalapeno Burgers – Recipes for Weight Loss


Recipes for Weight Loss

Chicken Jalapeno Burgers for the win. Lunch or dinner for 2 is served! Try this healthy spin on burgers for your next bbq. Pair this recipe with my carrot fries!

chicken jalapeno burgers


1/4 cup onion
1 clove garlic mashed
1/2 lb ground chicken breast
1/2 avocado
1 jalapeno seeded and diced
¼ cups chop Cilantro, Fresh
1/2 teaspoon Cumin
1/2 teaspoon Paprika
1/2 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes


Using clean hands, mix together ground chicken, onion, cilantro, garlic, jalapeño, ground cumin, paprika, and red pepper flakes in a large bowl. Divide mixture into patties. Grill over medium-high heat and flip when bottom side of burger no longer sticks to the grill grates, about 6-8 minutes. Continue cooking until cooked all the way through. Top finished patty with avocado.

chicken jalapeno burgers

Be Happy…Be Healthy…Be FIT!