Tokou Farmers Receive Training on Kava Dieback Disease

October 2, 2020

Picture: Technical Officer Makereta Ranadi (right) showing farmers Kava die back disease management.

Minimizing the risk of diseases such as Kava Dieback on the local kava industry was the focus of a Farm Management training held for kava farmers of Tokou Village on Ovalau recently.

Permanent Secretary for Agriculture, Mr. Ritesh Dass said the training was important as it provided empowerment to farmers, raising awareness on the effect of diseases that affect kava production.

“There is potential in rural farmers, and accessibility to information on the diseases that can affect production is vital. This is a rapidly spreading black soft rot of the stem tissue and symptoms appear on the leaves before the visible rot starts,” he said.

“It is a very serious disease and production losses are high, therefore the supply of quality planting material is also essential.”

The Ministry of Agriculture is working on efforts to control the spread of the disease on yaqona farms.

“The disease is a virus and there is no spray that can kill the virus and the only way you can tackle it is to burn the whole planting material,” Mr. Dass said.

“There is no known resistance among the varieties of kava grown in Fiji and cultural control is the way to manage kava dieback.”

“Proper management of yaqona is the best way to combat it, following the traditional method and if diseased plants are younger, it is best to dig them out and replace them with fresh cuttings,” he said.

“The kava industry is a thriving industry and precaution must be undertaken from an early stage to avoid losses.”

Training participant and yaqona farmer Tonio Bainimoli said the training provided him valuable insight on diseases that could affect his production. 

“This is the exact disease that we are having on the island and we are not aware of how severe it is and I am grateful the Ministry of Agriculture is creating awareness and giving us an insight of what this dieback disease is and how we can combat it,” he said. 

“Before this Farm Management training, we were applying all sorts of chemicals to the yaqona plants to combat it and now we have come to learn the best way to eliminate it.”

Also, yaqona farmers received training demonstrations on detection, inspection and practical maintenance methods of the dieback disease during the training, while also being introduced to the 13 noble yaqona varieties available in Fiji.