CETC IL Empowers Farmers to Sell Natural Enemies Against Fall Armyworm
PlantVillage, in collaboration with Dream Team Agro Consultancy Limited in Kenya, has completed training for 30 farmers from seven counties to serve as parasitoid agents. This initiative empowers farmers to become informed sales ambassadors, primarily focusing on mitigating the severe effects that insect pests inflict on staple crops like maize. Beyond pest control, the drive aims to uplift community income and enhance nutrition.
The 16 women and 14 men were meticulously selected based on leadership attributes, mobilization skills and their active engagement within their farmer groups. Local authorities, particularly chiefs, played a pivotal role in identifying devoted farmers from various communities. The project targeted counties such as Busia, Bungoma, Kisii, Machakos, Makueni, Meru and Taita Taveta.
Frankline Areba, spearheading the Parasitoids project supported by CETC IL in Kenya, shared, “One of our objectives is to bridge the gap between rural farmers and resources in pest management. This could be in the form of input supplies, training on innovative integrated pest management (IPM) technologies, or even pest diagnostics.”
Florentina Mbithe, a 54-year-old farmer and mother of four from Machakos County, was influenced in her journey by another farmer, Teresia Mwangi. Inspired by educational TV episodes of Shamba Shape Up, Florentina adopted the use of beneficial wasps. Her efforts bore fruit as she saw her yields increase from 5 to 12 90 kilogram bags per acre in a single season. This success propelled her to enroll in PlantVillage's training, deepening her understanding of biological pest control.
Marking a triumphant stride, PlantVillage commercialized the production of egg parasitoids, notably Trichogramma and Telenomus wasps. These are now available at a rate of 500 shillings for a quarter acre, offering a cost-effective, environmentally friendly alternative to synthetic pesticides and addressing the demand for biological controls.
From Busia County, Faith Murumba, a 56-year-old farmer, underscores the detrimental effects of synthetic pesticides. “In my region, farmers extensively spray chemicals on the crops we consume. The bee population is dwindling. If this trend continues, the loss of beneficial insects, crucial for natural pest control, becomes evident,” she observed. Faith remains committed to championing sustainable agricultural practices and disseminating this knowledge throughout her community.
The comprehensive training provided essential skills for the efficient use of biological control methods. Participants learned how and when to release parasitoids in the field, how to maintain their populations and the numerous benefits of these natural allies. Training also incorporated tailored integrated pest management techniques with a focus on the fall armyworm threat.
Kennedy Kyalo, from Taita Taveta County, is ecstatic about the tangible grassroots changes this initiative promises. “Having been provided with training resources,” he says, “I'll connect with farmers in various settings - be it churches, markets, or groups. I'm also keen on collaborating with schools, offering students valuable flyers on pest management and weather alerts, which they can then share with their families."
To reinforce this mission, PlantVillage equipped these farmers with smartphones loaded with the PlantVillage Nuru application.
Stella Musonye, the e-extension lead, explained, “This tool empowers agents to conduct comprehensive pest surveillance and monitoring, enabling them to make well-informed decisions. Additionally, through the ODK [other data kit] forms, farmers can log precise planting dates, crucial for determining the optimal time to introduce natural enemies and provide guidance via SMS [text].”
Kennedy Obare, affiliated with Ropment Medical Hospital, drew attention to a prevalent health issue during the training session in Kisii — diabetes. Coupled with nutritional gaps, particularly the scarcity of cassava, and maize due to fall armyworm infestations, the situation underscores a pressing need for intervention. He remains hopeful about this project's potential, believing that engaging the youth alongside trained agents can significantly bolster community health by promoting maize cultivation.
This initiative stands as a beacon of hope, aiming not just to combat pests but also to enhance the holistic health of Kenyan communities. These trained farmers are ready to act as pillars in their communities, advocating for biological control and, in doing so, earning commissions for every sale they facilitate.