Improvement of coffee production in Africa by the control of Coffee Wilt Disease (Tracheomycosis)
Common Fund for Commodities (CFC), European Union, and co-financing/counterpart contributions from national programmes
International Coffee Organization (ICO) (Supervisory Body), CIRAD, IRAD (Cameroon), Centre National de Recherche (Cote d'Ivoire), Office National du Café (DRC), EARO (Ethiopia), Institut des Sciences Agronomiques du Rwande (Rwanda), Lyamungu Agricultural Research and Training Institute (Tanzania), National Agricultural Research Organization (Uganda)
Problem/Issue. Eastern and Central Africa is witnessing the re-emergence and spread of a major coffee disease, Coffee Wilt, aka Tracheomycosis. This disease was first observed in 1927 in the Central African Republic on Coffea excelsa and the pathogen identified in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC, formerly Zaire) in 1948; the disease was successfully controlled in the 1940s and 1950s. Within the last six years it has increased its incidence considerably. Dr Julie Flood from CABI Bioscience carried out surveys of the status of coffee wilt in DRC and Uganda in 1996/97. Coffee is Uganda’s premier export, accounting for up to 55% of the countries foreign exchange but 70% of the coffee growing areas are now affected by coffee wilt and production has declined from 4.4 million bags in 1996-97 to 3.6 million bags in 1997-98 (latest data available). The coffee industry in Uganda employs more than 2.5 million people and it has been estimated that coffee households are facing a reduction in third of their income due to this disease. Coffee wilt continues to cause severe damage to robusta coffee in DRC.
The disease has also reported to be on the borders of Rwanda and Tanzania. If left unchecked, it poses a profound threat to coffee production throughout East Africa. The biology of the causal agent (Gibberella xylarioides) is poorly understood. An international workshop lead by Dr Flood was held in Uganda in 1997, leading to the development of a regional project for research on the control of Tracheomycosis, involving DRC, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. The project is being funded by the Common Fund for Commodities, with co-financing from the European Union, national programmes and bilateral agencies such as DFID (Department for Intenarnational Development). It is being set up and co-ordinated by CABI Bioscience on behalf of the International Coffee Organization.
Measures to Date. It has been difficult to provide rational control solutions to the disease as detailed knowledge of the epidemiology and variability of the pathogen is not available, and even the basic biology of the fungus such as its survival in soil, or in seed, is unknown. Current recommendations for control of the disease come from previous studies, and include:
Project Activities. As well as managing and co-ordinating this multi-country project, CABI Bioscience's key roles will be:
This project seeks to control the spread of the disease, which, if left unchecked, kills the coffee tree leaving small holders without any source of income. The project will research reasons for the re-emergence of the disease after successful control in the past and this should enable the existing control measures to be improved. The project will contain the resurgence by implementing a regional programme to develop improved management practices and developing a compatible programme of extension, information dissemination and training for small coffee producers.
Achievements So Far
A Knowledge Review and Launching Workshop was held at CABI African Regional Centre in Nairobi on the 15th and 16th February 2001. Forty-five participants, drawn from all 7 collaborating countries, as well as the CFC, CABI, CIRAD, ICO, IACO, EU, ASARECA and IPGRI attended the workshop. The workshop report is available as a PDF file.
The workshop provided a unique opportunity for the different collaborators and other stakeholders to meet and exchange ideas. At this meeting, the multi-funded status of the Regional Coffee Wilt Programme was discussed and it was agreed that the programme be divided into separately funded but inter-linked complementary projects. The projects were identified as follows:
Project 1: Surveys to assess the extent and impact in coffee wilt disease in Eastern and Central Africa
Project 2: Development of a strategy based on genetic resistance & agronomical approaches to manage coffee wilt disease
Project 3: Epidemiology and variability of Gibberella xylarioides, the coffee wilt disease pathogen
Project 4: Training of farmers and extension officers and dissemination of research findings on the management of coffee wilt disease
Additionally, the workshop
In June 2001, a workshop to harmonise the methodologies for conducting the biological and socio-economic surveys in East and Central Africa was held in Mukono, Uganda. Participants at the workshop included Mr Yves Gillet (EU, Kampala), Dr John Aluma (DDG NARO, Uganda), the programme coordinator, scientists from CABI, CIRAD, University of Makerere (Uganda), Uganda Coffee Development Authority (Uganda), Ministry of Agriculture (Uganda), CORI (Uganda), EARO (Ethiopia), TACRI (Tanzania), ISAR (Rwanda). A representative from ONC (DRC) was invited but could not attend due to immigration difficulties. At the workshop data sheets and questionnaires were developed and agreed upon.
During the remainder of 2001, participating countries were encouraged to meet outstanding pre-disbursement criteria (with some success). Securing financing/release of funds to conduct biological and socio-economic surveys to establish the extent, severity and impact of the coffee wilt disease was also pursued.
Finally (under CFC financed activities of training of farmers and extension officers and dissemination of research findings on the management of coffee wilt disease), CABI has started to identify suitable farmer groups and locations where extension staff will be trained in DRC, Uganda and Tanzania (countries which have already met, or are almost meeting, the donor conditions).
The final contract for the EU INCO-DEV, 5th Framework funded project (Development of strategy based on genetic resistance & agronomical approaches to manage coffee wilt) was signed between EU (INCO-DEV), CIRAD, CABI, NARO (Uganda), University of Kinshasa (DRC) and University of Louvain (Belgium) on 29th August 2001. The inauguration of this project took place in Uganda between 3rd and 8th March 2002, where workplans were finalised and a disease identification workshop was held by CABI staff.
Negotiations will continue with DFID regarding the funding of Project 3 of the Regional Coffee Wilt Programme. Release of funding for Project 1 of the Regional Programme (to be funded by the EU (EDF) through the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in East and Central Africa (ASARECA)) is expected shortly.
Initial survey work will commence in certain countries during 2002, and the dissemination of existing best practice control methodologies for Coffee Wilt Disease will commence by CABBI farmer training staff in DRC, Uganda and Tanzania.
Sarah Simons (CABI-ARC)