(L-R)Harrigan Mukhongo Deputy Feed the Future Coordinator USAID Kenya, Esther Kimani, MD ,KEPHIS, Betty Kibaara from Rockefeller Foundation, Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana and Dr Oscar Magenya, Director Research & Innovation, Ministry of Agriculture during the media launch of the ‘Komesha Fruit Fly Campaign’ at the Radisson Blu hotel. PHOTO:COURTESY.
By Dennis Muritu
A campaign to create a Pest Free Area will be launched in Makueni to improve production and quality of mangoes to stimulate export and increase incomes for farmers.
The campaign dubbed Komesha: Zuia Fruit Fly Ufaidike will sensitize and create awareness on economic benefits of applying modern pest management technologies to curb fruit fly damage on mango fruits.
Its success will mean a Pest Free Area that will lead to reduced post-harvest losses as a result of fruit fly damage by 50% and improved quality and food safety of mango products.
The campaign will be implemented in Makueni and Kitui counties by the Mango Technical Working Group which comprises National Government departments, Makueni County Government, Feed the Future Kenya Crops and Dairy Market Systems Activity, KEPHIS, Rockefeller Foundation, Technoserve, UNIDO, mango traders, researchers, innovators, development partners, and private sector actors/investors.
Mango is the second most common fruit produced in Kenya, after banana. Latest reports indicate that mango is grown on 49,098 hectares producing 779,147 metric tonnes of mangoes valued at Kshs.11.9 billion which is about 21% of the total value of fruits produced in Kenya.
Makueni County is leading in mango production in Kenya with a total of 4,311,375 mango trees grown by 109,465 farmers. Machakos County is second with 506,544 mango trees cultivated by 17,676 farmers.
According to the Institution of Development and Management, 2010, the income from mango farming contributes about 40% of the farm household income in the region.
Despite mango’s potential contribution to economic and nutritional security for smallholder farmers, it has not been exploited due to challenges at various stages of the value chain.
“One of the major challenges to the mango fruit is damage by fruit fly which has been reported to range between 40-80 percent, resulting in increased cost of production, low quality fruits, post-harvest losses. Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) imposed an export ban to lucrative markets since fruit flies are classified as quarantine pests and Kenya was previously not able to meet the strict phytosanitary restrictions,” said Dr. Esther Kimani, KEPHIS Managing Director during a media briefing in Nairobi ahead of the launch scheduled for January 22nd 2020.
“The Feed the Future Kenya Crops and Dairy Market Systems Activity is supporting a comprehensive campaign to sensitize and train farmers on fruit fly control and create pest-free areas to address the fruit fly menace. This will create a fruit fly free zone that can begin capturing the lucrative European and US markets for mango,” said Tom Carr, the Chief of Party of the USAID funded Feed the Future Kenya Crops and Dairy Market Systems Activity at the media briefing.
Creating and monitoring Pest Free Areas and surrounding areas of Low Pest Prevalence are among measures being put in place by KEPHIS to address issues that led to a pre-emptive freeze on mango exports to European countries and USA.
The ban, which is expected to be lifted early next year, was effected in 2014 following high levels of fruit fly that saw Kenyan consignments intercepted on several occasions.
A pre-emptive freeze is always a precautionary measure to stop introduction of pests to importing countries.
The campaign, which will last for two years, is expected to lead to increased export market share for mangoes by 30% in the first year by addressing the market compliance.