Written by Mercy Achieng

PlantVillage Establishes Additional Parasitoid Rearing Labs in Kenya to Scale Up Fight Against Fall Armyworms

The fight against fall armyworms on farms in sub-Saharan Africa has received a major boost after PlantVillage, through the support of USAID’s Current and Emerging Threats to Crops Innovation Lab, established additional parasitoids rearing labs in Kenya.

PlantVillage now boasts of three fully equipped labs in Busia, Machakos and Uasin Gishu counties, facilities which have and continues to open up opportunities for young scientists to advance the research in crop pest control.

Young scientists working in the parasitoid rearing lab

fourteen more fresh university graduates have been absorbed to run activities in the facilities, totalling to 24 young scientists who will be in charge of the organization’s efforts against fall armyworms through biological control.

“Working in the parasitoid rearing lab as a young graduate has been fulfilling. Everyday I get to interact directly with farmers and contribute to the country's agricultural sector by empowering maize farmers to get improved and quality yield,” Dennis Rongoei, one of the newly employed scientists in the lab in Uasin Gishu County, said.

Young graduates employed to work in the newly established parasitoid labs in Kenya

The team at the lab at Alupe in Busia County, which pioneered the project, made possible the success of the initial stages by rearing and distributing more than 22.5 million parasitoid eggs in 750 maize fields across 10 counties in Kenya in 2022.

The project’s success is through the efforts of PlantVillage’s Dream Team Agro Consultancy Limited, a Kenyan owned organization, ICIPE and USAID.

Dr. Subramanian Sevgan, principal scientist at ICIPE, during his visit to the parasitoid rearing lab in Busia County, lauded PlantVillage for involving young people in the production of the natural enemies and leveraging skills learned from the training his organization offered five PlantVillage Dream Team officers to kickstart the program.

“This is one example of how youths can be involved in IPM, and more of this kind of initiative needs to be there across the country and in various countries in Africa. We contributed, and we have a mass production facility at ICIPE. We had members of the PlantVillage Dream Team visiting us in Nairobi; we trained them on producing the fall armyworm and also the natural enemies, which they have now taken forward here, and they are now actually producing on a more commercial scale, bigger than what we have currently at ICIPE,” he said.

Dr. Subramanian Sevgan, principal scientist at ICIPE, during his visit to the parasitoid rearing lab in Busia County

Frankline Areba, one of the pioneers of the project, notes that the initiative has grown in scale and farmers are swiftly adopting it.

“Farmers and other organizations have reached out to us requesting for parasitoids. Noteworthy, 1,063 farmers from 25 counties have reached out via SMS, and phone calls. That’s very positive feedback, '' he said.

The fall armyworm is a threat to farmers in many parts of Kenya and other countries in Africa, and can contribute to a devastating 100 percent yield loss as noted by Brenda Cheptoo, one of the project leads.

“As a team, we are proud of having gained trust from our farmers to use parasitoids  as a biological control to fall armyworms. In Machakos County, for example, "We have released 3.84 million parasitoid eggs in 103 maize fields in Kangundo,” she said, adding that the product is a great alternative to synthetic pesticides which are not only harmful to the environment but are less effective.

New established lab in UasinGishu Kenya

Ms. Cheptoo and her team always conduct training to farmers on the use of parasitoids and the PlantVillage Nuru app in detecting the pest at the initial stages.

By Mercy Achieng



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