By HENRY OWINO (Senior Correspondent)

Kenya mango production sector especially farmers from Eastern Kenya remains determined to control pests on mangoes and re-open export to European Union markets. To help in revitalizing this mission, Makueni County Government together with relevant agencies have teamed up to improve production and quality of mangoes to stimulate export and increase incomes for the farmers.

In efforts to revive mango fruits exports to the world, a campaign dubbed: Komesha Fruit Fly Ufaidike (Stop Fruit Fly for Your Benefits) has been launched. This is to sensitize and create awareness to the public on economic benefits of applying modern pest management technologies to curb fruit fly damage on mango fruits.

The campaign was launched on Friday 17 January, 2020 in Nairobi, Kenya and is expected to last for two years (2020-2021). During the period, it would lead to increased export market share for mangoes by 30% in the first year by addressing the market compliance.

The ban on Kenya mangoes 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 ban is anticipated to be lifted early next year thus 2021. 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.

 A campaign to create a Pest Free Area will also officially be launched in Makueni County on Wednesday, 22 January, 2020 together with farmers.  This is mainly to boost farmers’ morale to improve production and quality of mangoes and increase income to mango-farmers as export resume.

The campaign will be implemented in Makueni and Kitui counties by the Mango Technical Working Group which comprises of; 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.

From Left: Harrigan Mukhongo, Deputy Feed the Future Coordinator USAID Kenya,Esther Kimani,Managing Director,KEPHIS,Betty Kibaara from Rockefeller Foundation, Prof Kivutha Kibwana,Governor Makueni County, Dr Oscar Magenya,Director Research & Innovation,Ministry of Agriculture during the media launch of the ‘Komesha Fruit Fly Campaign in Nairobi,Kenya

 According to Prof Kivutha Kibwana, Governor Makueni County, 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 KES 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, according to Department of Agriculture, Makueni County,” Prof Kibwana said.

Prof Kibwana noted that 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.” He disclosed.

He said damages caused by fruit fly in mangoes is about 40-80% loses to farmers, major economic income to households in Makueni and Kitui counties in Eastern Kenya.

“Before the ban we used to export 2-60% locally while 80-100% was being exported to international markets. Farmers really depend on the fruits for their household needs despite 40% of mangoes going to waste due to fruit fly,” Prof Kibwana regretted.

Prof Kibwana said Kenya coastal region is also known for growing mangoes in large scale mainly Kilifi, Kwale, and Taita Taveta counties.

There are two types of mango varieties grown in Kenya i.e. the local and the exotic varieties. Exotic mangoes are grafted on the local varieties. Local varieties include Dodo, Boribo,and Batawi, while the exotic varieties include Apple, Tommy and Kent among others.

Dr Esther Kimani, KEPHIS Managing Director expressed her fears thatdespite 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 Kimani, KEPHIS Managing Director.

Dr Isaac Macharia, General Manager, Phytosanitary Services emphasized creating and monitoring Pest Free Areas and surrounding areas of Low Pest Prevalence are among measures being put in place by KEPHIS. He added the aim is to address issues that led to a pre-emptive freeze on mango exports to European countries and USA.

“To stimulate export, this campaign must include everyone not only the mango farmers, stakeholders, government agencies, but all of us because we will all benefit in one way or another,” Dr Macharia urged.

The USAID Kenya Representative Harrighan Mukhongo announced grant of Ksh 64Million for the implementation of the project. This shows the seriousness of the matter in reviving mango export to the world market. Media would therefore play significant role creating awareness and educating the public.

Tom Carr, the Chief of Party of the USAID funded Feed the Future Kenya Crops and Dairy Market Systems Activity affirmed that his organization is supporting the comprehensive campaign to sensitize and train farmers on fruit fly control and create pest-free areas to address the fruit fly menace.

“ We are doing this to create a fruit fly free zone that can begin capturing the lucrative European and US markets for mango,” said  Carr, the Chief of Party of the USAID funded Feed the Future Kenya Crops and Dairy Market Systems Activity.