By Faith Atieno
Though crop protection products are essential for a thriving agricultural sector, Kenya still grapples with challenges which limit uptake of these products which are vital for the realization of the sector’s potential.
“Pests and diseases account for 40-100 percent losses depending on the pests that are attached on the crop,” said Eric Kimunguyi, the Agrochemical Association of Kenya (AAK) CEO during an agricultural workshop convened by Science Africa.
He noted that Kenya is a country with diverse tropical conditions of temperature 20-30 degrees Celsius which allows pests to prevail hence using crop protection products is inevitable.
The petition in parliament to ban products in the European Union (EU) is poses a great threat to the sector, Kimunguyi mentioned, adding that the ban on the use of some pesticides locally will stall crop production locally.
Moreover, he said, the negative voices about crop protection products in a politics versus science battle demoralizes the industry.
“In the past two years, we’ve seen quite a lot of engagement regarding this (negative voices), where political elites want to discuss about effects of policies,” he observed,adding that having non-experts tackle science related issues instead of the experts themselves hinders the performance of the sector.
The CEO mentioned that climate change is creating multiple challenges, “we are seeing different pests coming into this country posing a danger affecting trade, affecting production and also challenging innovation.”
Among the climate change-caused challenges he mentioned include the escalating pests attacks, floods, drought and the rising temperatures which result in low productivity forcing people to move to other areas.
Kimunguyi added that the rising temperatures in some counties have risen by as much as 1.9 degrees celsius with most up by more than the global average of 1.5 degrees celsius; the climate shift generates waves of alien insect invasion thus the need for crop protection.
“The biggest foundation for health is national food security,” he said, noting that both are pillars of President Uhuru’s Big Four Agenda hence, use of Intergrated Pest Management (IPM), as the backbone will ensure an increase in food productivity.
Echoing the association’s boss, Ojepat Okisegere, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Fresh Produce Consortium of Kenya, said indeed the major challenge on the crop protection sector is the ban on pesticides highlighting that 40% of our current production will crush without plant protection.
Commenting on the negative voices about crop protection products, Okisegere added that the negative publicity to our country will kill us and urged the lawmakers to make decisions on facts and science rather than emotions.
He also said that giving the crop protection bodies sufficient funds and resources to enable them undertake research required and develop robust systems is critical.