The primary purpose of the project was to collate current knowledge on the major pests and diseases of coffee in Eastern and Central Africa, and to utilise this knowledge to develop an up-to-date learning and advisory manual suitable for uptake and application by coffee stakeholders in the region. A secondary component was to review data from field and screen house trials established in Uganda to investigate aspects of coffee wilt disease (CWD) in relation to on-farm management of the disease. Both aims were achieved in that a comprehensive coffee manual comprising a series of fact sheets, each referring to a specific pest or disease, was produced. Pests and disease selection was based largely on the outputs of a regional coffee stakeholder workshop held in the region in 2004, at which the major constraints in the region were identified and prioritized nationally by participants. For each constraint, the manual provides a description (to aid diagnosis) and information on importance, occurrence, biology and ecology and management. This is supported by photographic depictions. The manual was produced in a use friendly format and principally to meet the needs of service providers including agricultural extension services and other national/regional agricultural advisory organisations involved in outreach programmes. However, it is also considered appropriate for direct uptake by some farmers. It may be consulted directly or utilised, wholly or in part, as an information resource to support other approaches to knowledge transfer, including training programmes.
Data acquired from a number of trials to investigate the epidemiology of the coffee wilt pathogen, Fusarium xylariodes, revealed that the pathogen can survive in field soil and stored coffee wood and remain infective to newly planted, susceptible coffee seedlings for up to eleven months and four months respectively. Previous suspicions that wounding of healthy coffee trees with a machete previously used on trees affected by CWD is sufficient to cause CWD development were also confirmed. These findings, which have been incorporated into the coffee manual, have significant implications with regard to measures taken to manage the disease, specifically with regard to whether and how affected plant material should be used (e.g. as firewood), as well as the impact of leaving fallow periods between coffee plantings and cultivating alternative crops.
The project activities have resulted in the acquisition and collation of existing and new knowledge on pests and diseases as major constraints to coffee production. This knowledge, now packaged in a format suitable for immediate dissemination and uptake, will be of fundamental importance to coffee producers. It will empower farmers, albeit largely through the efforts of intermediaries, to make more informed decisions, to implement up to date measures to control constraints they encounter and to have increased confidence that these measures will have a positive impact. This in turn will lead to more effective control of prevailing major pest and disease problems, such as CWD, and to improvements in the quantity and quality of coffee produced. As such, a vital source of revenue for millions of resource-poor farmers, traders, processors, exporters and other stakeholders in the farming community may be maintained. It will ultimately contribute to, and help to stabilise, national economies and will be of benefit to the well being of the region as a whole.