Citrus farmers in Kenya and Tanzania are set to benefit from a project that seeks to embrace alternative pest control methods and identifying suitable areas for its plantation, a move key in spurring citrus farming at a time when demand has failed to match supply leading to imports.
The 1.2 million Euro project to be chaperoned by the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology ICIPE and dubbed Strengthening Citrus production systems through the introduction of IPM measures for pests and diseases in Kenya and Tanzania (SCIPM), is informed by the fact that a bulk of the citrus farmers have over relied on conventional pesticides against voracious pests, which has taken a toll on the environment and natural beneficial insects.
In Kenya for example, citrus is among the prime fruit crop, graded fourth after bananas, pineapples and mangoes with an approximated 10,000 hectares under the cultivation of various varieties of citrus including sweet orange, lemons, tangerines and grapefruits. Cumulatively, they produce some 87000 tonnes each year valued at Sh1.7 billion according to the Ministry of Agriculture.
But common pests and diseases like African citrus triozid (ACT) and the False Codling Moth (FCM) have put brakes on the optimum production of the fruit. ACT for example, is notorious for spreading bacteria dubbed Candidatus Liberibacter africanus (CLaf), which in turn causes the citrus greening disease. The larva bores into the fruit causing premature dropping. FCM has been a pest nuisance among citrus fruit exporters with entire consignments been cancelled upon its detection. Conventional fertilizers haven’t done much to help as most of the pests develop resistance.
The effect has seen a more than a half dip in production, even as demand soars across sectors from households to manufacturers. To supplement the biting shortfall the country has turned to imports with up to 21 per cent of the fruit being exported from Egypt and South Africa.
“This intervention therefore seeks to come up with an integrated pest management programme which brings on board several natural and biological pest control techniques in Kenya, Tanzania and beyond.,” said Dr. Sunday Ekesi, a scientist at ICIPE.
There has also been limited or in some circumstances limited scientific on the citrus pests and diseases like ACT in the region like what contributes to the multiplication of the pests, when they are in abundance and how they spread. The project seeks to invest in this area.
In addition, according to Dr. Ekesi, the project will see scientists work with farmers in training them god farm management practices and how to tend to their orchards in order to tame the spread of the pests while carrying out research on clean disease free citrus planting materials.
The project is laying more emphasis on women who Dr. Ekesi says makes up between 50-91 per cent of all the horticultural labour force, but who never enjoy the returns of the sector.
For more information contacts below:
Contact person: Dr. Sunday Ekesi
Contact: 020 8632000