Sustainable crop pest management options highlighted at Veggies 4 Planet & People First International Conference

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03 June 2024, Africa: Recommendations for safer and sustainable crop pest management have been made as part of the Veggies 4 Planet & People First International Conference held to share research findings, lesson and experiences that would help increase healthy vegetable production and consumption in Kenya and Ethiopia.

The Conference, held in Nairobi, Kenya, gave the opportunity for CABI, SNV, World Vegetable Centre and other partners, to present findings and lessons learnt from the €6 million five-year ‘Veggies 4 Planet & People’ project funded by the IKEA Foundation.

Source of vitamins and minerals

A healthy diet of fruit and vegetables provides a source of vitamins and minerals needed to maintain the overall health of people but is particularly important in helping to prevent obesity, heart disease, and cancers.

However, the consumption of vegetables in Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the lowest of any region in the world. This is due to several factors including low yields because of crop pests and diseases, limited marketing, poor access to seeds, soil and fertilizers and limited knowledge of soil and plant health management.

In addition, food safety issue, particularly in relation to inappropriate use of chemical pesticides, has become a major concern among consumers of vegetable products.

CABI worked in partnership as part of the World Vegetable Centre-led Veggies 4 Planet & People project which aims to create jobs, increase incomes – particularly for women and youth – and improve environmental and human health through the safe production of vegetables.

Recommendations for low-risk solutions

Dr Negussie Efa Gurmessa, Scientist and Country Programmes Manager from CABI’s regional centre for Africa, presented insights from research in Kenya and Ethiopia including recommendations for low-risk solutions to crop pests and diseases.

CABI’s desk and field study identified pest problems faced by smallholder farmers, assessed the risks associated with current management practices used by farmers to tackle pests and diseases and developed recommendations for safer and sustainable pest management options.

In respect of Kenya, the research discovered that farmers reported using more crop protection products that are compatible with regenerative agriculture than in Ethiopia. However, most of the pesticides used in Kenya were not registered for the focal crops.

Regarding Ethiopia, many farmers in the study areas reported obtaining pesticides from informal sources and most of them do not follow information provided on the pesticide label and use the correct doses against the crop pests and diseases.

Adverse side effects of pesticide application

There were high levels of exposure to pesticides and low levels of awareness of the potential harm caused including the risks associated with unsafe storage and disposal of empty containers.

Dr Gurmessa said, “Our research found that while most farmers reported using personal protective equipment (PPE), in Ethiopia the majority had incomplete sets of safety equipment which is expensive and not readily available in the market.

“Furthermore, in both Kenya and Ethiopia, half of the farmers indicated experiencing some adverse side effects of pesticide application including headaches, dizziness, skin problems/itching, vomiting and concern about food contamination.”

Dr Gurmessa added that the negative impact on the environment was also evident with reports of decreased numbers of bees, birds, and beneficial insects.

“Interestingly, almost all interviewed farmers reported consuming the vegetables they sprayed with pesticides,” he said.

Range of recommendations

A range of recommendations was presented by Dr Gurmessa which included the provision of strong and tailored extension services, farmer training and measures to introduce further low-risk solutions that are not yet available in Kenya and Ethiopia.

Dr Gurmessa said, “Among our recommendations are support for policies for the registration of biopesticides, in Ethiopia the possibility of locally producing biological control agents and in Kenya engaging with manufacturers and the Pest Control Products Board to explore options for crops with registration gaps.”

CABI also said it is important to carry out social and behaviour change campaigns to help promote change where training has not been sufficient.

One example of this is the Ukulima True campaign implemented by the County Government of Nakuru in Partnership with CABI and the Centre for Behaviour Change and Communication Centre (CBCC).

The campaign was implemented in Nakuru County, Subukia Sub-County, from May to December 2023. The campaign – part of the CABI PlantwisePlus programme – a sought to reduce the risk of pesticides to stakeholders in the food value chain.

Also Read: Food Security of the World: Countries that Can Save the World from Starvation

(For Latest Agriculture News & Updates, follow Krishak Jagat on Google News)

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