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CABI Reveals Online Pesticides Portal

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An on-line resource seeking to raise awareness of biocontrol and biopesticide products has on Friday been launched by the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience and International (CABI).

This comes even after a petition tabled in parliament last year by a Kenyan advocacy group seeking to ban over 200 pesticides with the recommendation of strengthening the monitoring system on the use of pesticides.

The goal of CABI is to create awareness for their pest-related problems through a portal known as Cabi BioProtection Portal for stakeholders such farmers and their advisors, even as the petition by lobby groups curbing for the ban of pesticides, such as the Biodiversity and Biosafety Association of Kenya, Kenya Organic Agriculture Network and Road to Food Initiative, is still pending in Parliament after its introduction in September of 2019.

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Pests, such as the Fall Army Worms (FAWs), are a threat to crops, as happened last year when they attacked maize fields in Rift Valley.

Three years ago, the FAWs cut back the earnings of maize farmers by Kshs 15 million in Kenya, based on research.

The Executive Director of Global Operations at CABI, which is based in the United Kingdom, Dr Ulrich Kulhmann, who spoke during the launch says that is against such a context the CABI is launching the portal.

“Globally, an estimated 40 per cent of crops are lost to pests – such as the devastating maize pest fall armyworm and the tomato leaf miner – as well as a range of plant diseases.

Available online, the CABI BioProtection Portal can be accessed by farmers and pest management advisors through digital devices such as smartphones, tablets and computers so as to help them seek, and accurately apply biocontrol and biopesticide products for their specific crop-pest problems but that there will also be an offline version soon for the farmers who are unable to access the internet.

Another importance of the portal is that it will be key in allowing farmers to replace chemical pesticides.

Though the latter is key in fighting the invasion of chemical pesticides with biological means such as the recent locust invasion, which can be eliminated with the Fenitrothion chemical and has been affirmed by the Agrochemical Association of Kenya as being safe, alarm notwithstanding. With the portal, farmers can be able to know what are the requisite export standards, satisfy consumer demands in terms of health, safety and reduction of pressure on the environment.

In 2019, CABI and Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) commenced a Prise data project that would help farmers to detect warning signs from FAW’s and other pests.

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Experts have recommended that the spread of FAW’s can be curtailed by the growth of the armyworms by either having clean fields or crushing their eggs.

According to CABI, there are certain chemical pesticides that tend to have detrimental health and environmental effects.

A 2018 annual report by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) found that among vegetable samples gathered from outlets and markets in various parts of the country, pesticide residues were existent, though the recommended size allowed by the European Union os 10 percent of the sampled product.

Regulation

After officially launching the portal, Hon. Prof. Hamadi Boga, PS Ministry of Agriculture Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives highlighted how the portal not just benefit growers but also national authorities responsible for the regulation/registration of plant protection products, private-sector decision-makers – such as cooperatives and organisations operating voluntary certification schemes – and biocontrol manufacturers looking to promote wider uptake of their products.

The widespread use of chemical pesticides to fight crop pests alone is not sustainable either economically or environmentally in the long run especially when you factor impacts exacerbated by climate change.

“CABI is helping growers to adapt to this major challenge through projects that apply, among other things, our expertise in digital development and crop health as well as products like the BioProtection Portal which promote sustainable approaches to pest management.”

Dr Morris Akiri, Regional Director for CABI Africa said, “The CABI BioProtection Portal brings together in one place the various safer and more environmentally friendly biocontrol and biopesticide products that growers can add to their ‘arsenal’ against crop pests as part of an integrated pest management plan.”

The portal will also be rolled out to a further 10-15 countries in 2020, including Spain, Brazil, Uganda and Bangladesh, and in multiple languages, with further countries to follow in 2021.

The Cabi BioProtection Portal is the collaboration effort between CABI and partners such as the Koppert Biological Systems, Syngenta, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, African Development Bank and the UK Department for International Development who provide invaluable support in the form of technical inputs, strategic guidance and funding.

The launch comes as CABI and its partners mark the inaugural International Year of Plant Health (IYPH) 2020 which aims to raise awareness of the importance and impacts of plant health in addressing world hunger, poverty, threats to the environment and economic development.

As part of this effort, CABI is collaborating with Wageningen University from the Netherlands to hold the first Plant Health, Agriculture and Bioscience Conference (PHAB 2020) which will be held on 9-11 September 2020 in The Hague, the Netherlands.

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