Plant health rallies as an extension tool in small-scale farming in Kenya
Published: July, 2016
Kenya has consistently reported new and serious disease and pest problems on key crops over the years, often associated with substantial crop yield losses. In just the last six years, for example, maize lethal necrosis – a disease responsible for crop losses valued at about US$ 4.1 million in 2014 alone – and tomato leaf miner entered and got established in the country. For small-scale farmers, who make up 80% of the farming community and contribute 25% of the GDP, an attack by such diseases could spell doom for their income and food supply.
Decisive action is needed to prevent new pests and diseases from spreading and becoming established. Also, other well-established crop pests and diseases regularly cause major crop losses. Farmers need help to take preventative measures and avoid costly and often less effective treatments after the problem has entered the crop. Extension campaigns can play a critical role in controlling crops pests and diseases by acting as a source of timely information. One such approach, plant health rallies, has been embraced in Kenya, though so far on a limited scale.
In 2015 the University of Nairobi and Plantwise undertook a study in parts of Kenya among 150 farmers and 27 extension staff in five counties to get a picture of extension campaigns in crop health and to understand how the role of plant health rallies could be enhanced in delivering a comprehensive service to farmers. The study focused on maize lethal necrosis, mango fruit fly, Napier grass stunt, tomato leaf miner and wheat stem rust, all which have the potential for high economic impact.