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Teaching Agriculture Through Soap Operas

Wisconsin Health Conference finds solutions to Ugandan health issues but their immediate focus is on the Green Bay Packers this weekend.


Yesterday, the inaugural Global Health Initiative Incubator Series held at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery announced a novel solution to a global health issue in Uganda.


Plant pathology Professor Caitlin Allan describes a radio drama produced by the Ugandan agricultural extension:

They developed this scandalous and addictive soap opera for the radio. In the process of the characters trying to off each other and sleeping around and all this bad behavior, there were messages embedded about being sure to cut the wilted male flowers off infected banana plants.

It was one of the few ways Ugandan officials could get undereducated farmers to pay attention to the complex techniques required to control the spread of BXW, a bacterial disease decimating as much as 80 percent of the plants on Ugandan banana plantations.

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The University of Wisconsin-Madison news reported today that:

In a country where the average citizen consumes about 500 pounds of bananas each year the minute bacterium was a full fledge threat to public health.

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Banana prices shot through the roof while farmers were ruined. Families were pressed into food insecurity. A wave of ill-advised internal immigration brought people from rural communities into the city in search of work. Fewer children were making it to school — left out because their parents couldn't afford books and shoes or because their families needed them to work and contribute.

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The radio drama provided the answer to solve the banana crisis and is a great example of the creative thinking that Wisconsin's Global Health Initiative is trying to spark.


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