Golden ‘weed’ has multiple benefits

Farmers in Kenya can now use Tephrosia Vogellii, also known as fishbone poison, to effectively kill pests on their livestock, as confirmed by a recent study by FAO, which shows that a solution made from the plant's leaves has the capacity to counter the issue of tick resistance arising from continuous use of a single type of acaricide.
The finding is a big revelation especially to smallholder livestock farmers who have grappled with the loss of animals to tick borne diseases like theileriosis, anaplasmosis, and babesiosis and heart water. It is also going to insulate them from high costs of acaricides which also pose a health danger to their families.
According to the study which was conducted in Zimbabwe, the leaves solution of this plant has high potency that destroys tick eggs and kills older ones with soft skin, interrupting their life cycle. Initially, most livestock farmers in Kenya we depending on plunge dipping services by government to treat their livestock against ticks. Unfortunately, the government has neglected those dips, with some now inactive for decades.
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According to Howard Kisanya, a smallholder cattle farmer in Sabatia, Vihiga County, local dips have become breeding sites for mosquitoes and urged state agricultural actors to demolish them if they don’t have a vision of reinstating them to their past glory. ‘’ We now either buy acaricides and spray our livestock at home or physically pluck tick when they mature,’’ said Kisanya.

To prepare the mixture for application on animals, about 250 g of fresh leaves are pounded and boiled in 500 ml of water for 30 minutes. The greenish yellow mixture is then separated from the leaf particles by sieving through a tea strainer. It is estimated that 400g of ground Tephrosia vogelli leaves, mixed with four litres of water is adequate for mature grade cow.

Besides eliminating ticks in livestock, this crop which is normally dismissed as a weed by farmers has the potential to control maize stock borer, a deadly maize pest estimated to be destroying almost 400,000 tonnes of maize in Kenya per year. According to the study, maize farmers in Zimbabwe have for many years crushed, fermented and sprayed Tephrosia leaves solutions to their maize crop, keeping stem borer at bay.
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In Kenya, most communities use fishbone poison to catch fish in rivers, an illegal activity outlawed by the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA). According to FAO, the leaves of this crop are non toxic to mammals and birds but roots are poisonous to mammals, perhaps a reason why most farmers plant it to control moles.