By Sharon Atieno

Prompted by the desert locust invasion which posed severe food insecurity in the affected counties, Kenya has stepped up its fight against migratory and invasive pests and weeds by launching a strategic management plan.

The five-year strategy which runs from 2022 to 2027 has identified seven priority pillars for a comprehensive migratory pest management system and will provide a platform for a coordinated collaborative approach.

The first pillar includes resource mobilization and management which advocates for adequate financial, physical and human resources to execute various functions and activities at both national and county levels.

In the second pillar, the strategy proposes establishment of a cost-effective information collection and sharing system to detect and monitor migratory and invasive pests and weeds, and provide timely information for effective response and management.

Another pillar calls for the need to improve knowledge on migratory and invasive pests and weeds among various stakeholders involved in their management in order to enhance surveillance, monitoring, identification and management measures.

According to the fourth pillar, there is need to effectively and efficiently control migratory and invasive pest and weeds within Kenya while adhering to all the phytosanitary and environmental regulations to protect farmers against losses associated with the pests and weeds. This, the strategy reads, will improve farm productivity, thus contributing towards food and nutrition security among the people of Kenya.

Additionally, there is need to improve collaboration among organizations and institutions at regional, national and county levels involved in migratory and invasive pest management to build synergy in managing the pests and weeds and improve efficiency in their management.

While the sixth pillar calls for harmonization of the existing legal policies and regulatory framework and institutional mandates managing plant health and pest control to create an enabling framework for managing migratory and invasive pests and weeds, the seventh pillar calls for the need to improve the resilience capacity of farmers by supporting them to mitigate risks and uncertainties associated with the invasion of pests and weeds.

According to the strategy, the management of various Migratory and invasive pests and weeds will be guided by the Multi-Institutional Technical Team (MITT), which the Director of Plant Protection and Food Safety Directorate (PP&FSD) chairs.

The MITT comprises the Pest Control Products Board (PCPB), Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS), Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA), Universities, Farmer’s representative, the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), Desert Locust Control Organization for Eastern Africa (DLCO-EA), Ministry of Health (MOH), National Environment and Management Authority (NEMA) and co-opts other institutions as when necessary, such as the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CYMMIT) and Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI).

In the recent past, Kenya has faced frequent invasion and infestation by several migratory and invasive pests which have been largely linked to climate change. Some of the migratory pests include Red-billed birds (Quelea quelea), African Armyworm and the Desert Locust while the invasive pests include the Fall armyworm , the South American tomato pinworm, fruit fly, the Mediterranean fruit fly, Papaya mealybug and the Potato cyst nematode among others.

There are a variety of invasive weeds in the country such as the Purple Witchweed, the Japanese Dodder, Water Hyacinth, Parthenium weed, Giant Salvinia, Erect Prickly Pear, Mathenge , Tall Morning Glory among others.

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