PlantVillage Advocates for Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality Through the Parasitoids Rearing Lab in Kenya

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Seven young female scientists at the PlantVillage Parasitoids Rearing Lab at Alupe in Busia
County, Kenya, are notable for their remarkable work that is changing the game for farmers in
10 counties in Kenya in combating the problem of fall armyworms.

As the world marks International Women’s Day under the theme "Innovation and Technology for
Gender Equality," the lab at Alupe, supported by USAID, stands out as a good case study of a
modern biological crop pest control technology that has provided equal opportunities to 11
young scientists to explore their potential.

The lab, whose idea is modeled after PlantVillage’s advocacy for youth empowerment,
integrates into the whole idea of championing the cause of eradicating global hunger through

PlantVillage Advocates for Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality Through the Parasitoids Rearing Lab in Kenya

PlantVillage's Dream Team Kenya parasitoid rearing lab officers sorting and preparing fresh diet for the growing insects meant for controlling fall armyworms.

Brenda Cheptoo, who holds a bachelor’s degree in biotechnology, works alongside Frank Areba
as the lead of the team in the lab, which is also made up of Lauryn Atieno, Cinthia Mukhwana,
Linda Echesa, Mercy Kemboi, Valentina Ngoji, and Vilian Khadudu. Together, they have been
able to mobilize the group into producing more than 27 million parasitoid eggs that were
instrumental in the fight against fall armyworms in 2022.

Farmers reported the effectiveness of this cutting-edge technology during the planting season
last year, and many showed a willingness to adopt it.

Brenda herself is a beacon of hope and a trailblazer, carving a path for other young female
scientists to follow in her footsteps.

"It makes me happy to see women taking up roles that were initially dominated by men, which is
why I challenge farmers not to overlook my gender but to focus on my message of them
embracing biological crop pest control technology," Brenda says.

A training session delivered by Brenda Cheptoo for farmers in Machakos on how to use parasitoids.

The project has seen a lot of small-scale farmers, especially women, taught and trained as
parasitoids agents to help groups learn about and effectively use the technology.

“Involvement of women in this field encourages more aspiring scientists that it is possible. More
so, women are easy to learn from and adapt to changing trends, just like men. In the field,
women are willing to take up the technology because they are the ones closest to the family and
children,” Brenda added.

Just like any other field, the pest control team faces a few challenges, such as inadequate
public sensitization among farmers on the modern methods of controlling farm pests.

"Quite a good number of farmers have not yet embraced this biological pest control method
because of their unawareness, with some finding it hard to understand its benefits. For this to go

far, we are conducting training and creating awareness through the Citizen TV Shamba Shape
Up program. Our team at the grass-roots level is also up to the task of training and encouraging
farmers on the use of biological pest control methods," Ms. Cheptoo concludes.

For Brenda and her team, the sky's the limit, and nothing can stand in their way. With passion,
determination, and a thirst for progress, they are lighting the way for a brighter tomorrow, one
where technology and gender equality go hand in hand and hunger is a thing of the past.

- By Dennis Avokoywa and Sam Oduor

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