In 2017, Kenya’s fresh produce to the European Union was intercepted 29 times due to infestation by pests such as leaf miners, bollworm,s and armyworms among others with the product having exceeded minimum pesticide limits of 10 per cent maximum residue level according to the Horticultural Crops Directorate.
In developing countries such as Kenya, frequent exposure to pesticides by farmers and farm workers is very common. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) estimate pesticide poisoning rates at two to three people per minute. Pesticide-related health issues, therefore, poses threat to development and can easily reverse or undermine the gains made in agricultural growth.
The Pest Control and Products Board is advocating for the correct usage of pesticides to maximize their benefits while at the same time minimizing risks.
Farmers, therefore, are required to only use registered products by PCPB. Before buying a pesticide, ensure it bears a PCPB registration number on the label. The package should be intact and not leaking or tampered with. Read the product labels carefully and entirely before use and stick to the label instructions accordingly.
Wear appropriate protective gear such as rubber gloves, gumboots, overalls, and respirators when mixing and applying pesticides. Gloves cost about Sh350, gumboots Sh700, and overalls Sh950. Do not eat, drink or smoke while mixing or spraying pesticides and afterward wash your hands and the protective gear thoroughly with soap and water.
Safe pesticide application. Courtesy
The major pests hindering the export of Kenya’s fresh produce include bollworms, leaf miners, and armyworms.
The leaf miner causes 27 per cent rejection rate and affects flowers, French bean pods, and snow pea pods. It is identified by the presence of yellow lines, spots, or blotches on leaves caused by the larvae. A natural way instead of the use of chemicals in controlling leaf miners is by use of neem oil which affects the life cycle of the pest by killing the larva hence reducing their population.
Armyworm accounts for less than five per cent of the total rejection cases in flowers. Natural ways farmers can reduce the impact include squashing the eggs or caterpillars when they see them.
Bean thrips affect mango, banana, French beans, snow peas, flowers, and avocados. Thrips suck juices in plants turning them pale and discolored. They are controlled by uprooting and discarding infected plants. Also, remove weeds and grass to eliminate alternative hosts.