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    Researchers at the international centre of insect physiology and ecology, ICIPE, have discovered 13 previously unknown wasp species in Kenya and Burundi which will bolster the war on pests.

    The researchers, working together their peers from Italy’s University of Tuscia and the Tropical Entomology Research Institute said the discovery will go along way in guiding the war on voracious pests since most of the wasps are parasitic and naturally capable of controlling agricultural pests. By laying their eggs in or on the eggs of other insect species, the eggs mature to larvae which destroy the host insect.  For every insect species that exists, the scientists say, at least one wasp species exists that parasitizes it.

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    “Alongside bees and ants, wasps belong to the third largest order of insects, Hymenoptera, known more commonly as "membrane-winged" insects. Although well over 100,000 species of Hymenoptera are recognized globally, many more are yet to be described, with wasps, and those of Africa particularly, being insufficiently studied,” explains Dr Robert Copeland a scientist from ICIPE.

    The 13 discovered species belong to a moderately sized cosmopolitan family of insects known as Dryinidae, and which are best known for feeding on ‘true bugs’ that attack crops ranging from cereals, to horticultural produce causing considerable damage.  Some of the notable true bugs in Kenya include aphids, leafhoppers, whiteflies.

    “Our studies suggest that many more species of Dryinidae remain to be recorded in Kenya, particularly in the northern and eastern parts of the country where there has been little exploration,” notes Dr. Copeland.

    The findings which were published in the Acta Entomologica Musei Nationalis Pragae also indicate that the total number of wasps in the Dryinidae species and which scientists have relied on for biological pest control in Kenya adds up to 76. Most of the newly discovered ones were collected from culturally important but threatened forests at the coast including Kaya and Mijikenda forests with others being discovered at Ungoye a small forest near Lake Victoria. The researchers named them after the areas they were discovered in, including Dryinus digo sp for the ones discovered in Kaya Kinondo forest and named in honour of the Digo people who live near the forest.

    The discovery comes at a time when research institutions are coming up with potent and modern ways to fight plant pests and diseases which are the biggest threat to crop production in Kenya. While most farmers have traditionally relied on conventional pesticides to counter these pests, the pests have usually developed resistance against the pests. In the wake of the pest control frustration, biological control methods have been the saving grace even as they spare the environment.

    ICIPE has successfully used wasps in controlling some of the most voracious maize, cabbages and mango pests in the country.  A wasp it released to control the notorious Fruit fly, which affects more than four fifths of all Kenya mango harvests, has been more than twice effective in taming the fly. Half an acre only needs 750 wasps. 

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    As the war on agricultural counterfeits intensifies, agrodealers in the country have unveiled a new strategy that focuses on training of farmers who are the victims of the vice that accounts for 15 to 20 percent of Kenyan agrochemicals market.

    Retailers and distributors of the agricultural inputs have also been factored in the new strategy with the realization that they are the point of contact with the products and as such are key in eliminate the counterfeits and maintaining a clean supply chain.

    According to CropLife Kenya CEO Richard Sikuku awareness and training is the industry’s best bet in the drive to eliminate counterfeits in East Africa in general and Kenya in particular. “As an industry we have developed a strategy for managing the problem of counterfeits based on the three pillars of training and awareness, development of clean supply chain and law enforcement by the government,” he said.

    Although all the industry will pursue the three pillars, Sikuku said “the industry will focus more on awareness and training for the next three years starting in 2014.” A steering committee has been formed comprising the Agrochemical Association of Kenya, government officials and non-governmental organizations to spearhead the drive to eliminate counterfeits, which now account for 15 to 20 percent of the Kenyan agrochemicals market. The figure stands at 40 percent in neighboring Uganda and Tanzania.

    “The agrochemical industry does not want to work alone during the three years, but has incorporated government agencies and non-governmental organizations,” said Sikuku. Some of the government agencies to be involved in this new drive are security agencies or law enforcers, the Judiciary, Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) and the Pesticide Control Products Board (PCPB).

    “We are ready for take-off immediately. We rope in a non-governmental organization, which we intend to utilize for passing of information through the development of an effective communication mix,” he said. Some of the tools the strategy aims to deploy include television adverts, posters, leaflets, billboards and radio jingles.
    Sikuku said the agrochemical industry in East Africa has previously employed the three strategies in fighting counterfeits, but there have been challenges in safeguarding the development of clean supply chain and effective law enforcement.

    “We have tried law enforcement but there have been serious challenges in ensuring its effectiveness. This is partly because counterfeits are being sold by powerful cartels that have infiltrated agencies that should help in ensuring compliance. Some of the cases we filed in court have been pending since 2009. So even as we pursue them, we now want to shift focus to training the farmer/consumer in identifying counterfeits and sensitize them to why they should only use genuine agrochemicals,” he said.

    Counterfeiters have upped their game according to Sikuku, especially in their labeling of the fake products ready for release to the market. The trend also affects counterfeit products in the Kenyan and East Africa market from Far East, China and India according to previous surveys. “The labeling is so good that it is difficult even for some experts to differentiate at face value which label is counterfeit and which is one genuine,” he said.

    Agrochemicals Association of Kenya lost one case previously when an expert from a leading agrochemical manufacturer in Nairobi, who was called to court to identify a genuine label from a fake one, singled out the counterfeit one as genuine, Sikuku said.

    “These cartels somehow get to know where agrochemical manufacturers make their labels and contract the same makers to generate for them similar ones to use on their products making it difficult to differentiate between the two labels,” he said.

    In addition, the CropLife Kenya CEO says the pricing of the counterfeit “is now almost similar with those of genuine agrochemicals unlike before when they were underpriced.” “The only slight difference is the shelf life of the counterfeits which they indicate to be up to five years instead of the standard two to three years for genuine products,” added Sikuku.

    However, CropLife Kenya is now piloting a new technology, the CropLife Holospot Quality Label, which has shown tremendous success in Ghana and Uganda, in an effort to reduce the supply of counterfeit agrochemicals. The technology involves the scratch-off Holospot label on an agrochemical product and sending the 12 digits to the agrochemical manufacturer through mobile phone’s short message service (SMS) to verify if the product is indeed genuine or fake.

    The introduction of this mobile authentication service is also part of a deal between CropLife Kenya and the country’s standards body, the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs). Kebs requires by law that all products in the country should have a quality mark as a confirmation that the product is approved to be sold in the market. The quality mark has a number which can be scanned by the seller in the presence of the buyer to confirm the product is genuine.

    The Pest Control Products Board has numbers of all genuine products in the Kenyan market and by scanning the number it will show information about the manufacturer and ingredients. “We are soon getting a short code number from a mobile service provider where buyers of the agrochemical products can send the unique code displayed after scratching the label. They will get an instant message from the manufacturer on whether the product is genuine or counterfeit,” said Sikuku.

    “If we manage to bring on board all the farmers, by empowering them to identify the products they are buying, we will have made huge strides in this fight against counterfeit agrochemicals.” In addition, CropLife Kenya is piloting a project in Kajiado and Kirinyaga counties called the Spray Service Providers scheme.

    The providers will be trained in chemical use, selection, mixing and spraying techniques. They will then help farmers in the purchase and spraying of the agrochemicals at a fee. “The use of spray service providers will eliminate incidents of farmers spraying chemicals at the wrong time of crop maturity for example or using wrong amounts of the chemical which may end up compromising the quality of the crop especially in the international market,” said Sikuku.

    Under the scheme, which is expected to be rolled out countrywide, there will be a main spray provider. Under him will be five spray persons each working with five to 10 farmers. “The program has done well in Zambia where the focus has been on herbicides use. In Kenya we want to use it for all types of pesticides and herbicides,” said Sikuku.

    Meanwhile, CropLife Kenya is carrying out a new baseline study to establish the extent of the counterfeit supply in the local market. “Between April and December of this year we will do a new baseline to establish what is the current,” said Sikuku.

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