Revitalizing Kitui County’s Mango Industry through Integrated Pest Management

Prof. Caleb Nindo and Dr. Everlyn Okoth at a Mango orchard in Kitui

In the heart of Kitui County, where the golden allure of mango orchards paints the landscape, a silent threat has been steadily encroaching upon the cherished mango industry.

A baseline survey undertaken by the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES), cast a stark revelation – between 45% to a staggering 65% of mangoes harvested in Kitui succumb to the clutches of post-harvest losses. The culprits? Pests and diseases running rampant, unchecked by effective control mechanisms.

As the mango orchards in Kitui County stand at the brink of peril, a glimmer of hope emerges on the horizon. JKUAT and UMES, with the support of USAID, joined forces to confront the multifaceted crisis gripping the mango industry.

The team comprising of Dr. Everlyn Okoth (JKUAT), Prof. Caleb Nindo (UMES), Prof. Stephen Tubene (UMES), Dr. Patrick Juma (JKUAT), and Ms. Margaret Mwanzia (JKUAT) has orchestrated an initiative with a singular focus.

JKUAT and UMES researchers visit a local market in Kitu town. (From right) Dr. Everlyn Okoth, Dr. Simon Zebelo, Dr. Behnam Khatabi and Prof. Caleb Nindo

Their concerted effort is aimed at confronting the challenges of post-harvest losses, market inefficiencies, and limited knowledge with resolute determination. United by a shared belief in the transformative potential of knowledge, technology, and collaboration, the team endeavors to pave the way for a revitalized mango industry in Kitui County.

“Kitui’s mango value chain has been ensnared in a web of challenges: a highly seasonal market plagued by gluts during harvest, a lack of structured aggregation and packaging facilities, an absence of export markets for both fresh and value-added mango products, and, perhaps most critically, a dearth of knowledge and skills among farmers in sustainable value addition,” said Dr. Okoth

The architects of this bold initiative, led by Dr. Evelyn Okoth (JKUAT) and Prof. Caleb Nindo (UMES) undertook the herculean task of not only addressing the rampant pest and disease infestations but also equipping farmers and mango value chain stakeholders with the knowledge and skills needed to navigate the intricacies of Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

“In the relentless battle against the growing threats to Kitui County’s mango industry, Integrated Pest Management emerges as the beacon of hope, promising not only to suppress tephritid fruit fly infestations but also to fortify the economic foundations of mango production,” attest Dr. Okoth.

Harnessing the power of modern technology. Dr. Everlyn Okoth (right) examines a mongo fruits for disease symptoms and pest damage

The research team employed a multifaceted approach, incorporating parasitoids, orchard sanitation, food bait, bio-pesticides, and the male annihilation technique, both individually and in strategic combinations in a bid to fortify the resilience of Kitui’s mango industry.

Harnessing the power of modern technology, the research team used a mobile application for the swift and accurate identification of disease symptoms and pest damage on mango plants. This innovative tool not only streamlined the diagnostic process but also empowered county agricultural extension workers with a comprehensive understanding of Integrated Pest Management strategies.

These extension workers, having undergone specialized training, assumed the pivotal role of Trainer of Trainers (TOTs). In this capacity, they cascaded their knowledge to various stakeholders embedded within the Mango value chain.

Dr. Okoth affirms that the approach not only amplified the reach of their initiatives but also fostered a sustainable knowledge transfer system, ensuring that the benefits of IPM practices permeate every layer of the mango industry in Kitui County.

Dr. Everlyn Okoth interacts with mango farmers including Mr. Titus Nyanzu

For the success of the initiative, Prof. Caleb Nindo believes a culture of knowledge dissemination among trained farmers is vital. He urged these farmers not only to absorb the insights gained from their training but also to become catalysts for change within their neighborhoods.

“By fostering a sense of shared responsibility and community-wide engagement, the success of IPM becomes intertwined with the prosperity of the entire mango farming ecosystem in Kitui County,” said Prof. Nindo.

Ms. Mbite Nzambi Matuku, one of the trained farmers, expressed her gratitude for her newfound knowledge and skills in IPM. She believes that the acquired expertise would pave the way for a substantial increase in her mango yield. More than just a boost in quantity, Ms. Matuku highlighted the significance of producing cleaner mango products, aligning with international export standards.

Value added Mango products

“As these newfound capabilities take root in our farms, the promise of a bountiful and export-worthy harvest becomes a beacon of hope for the entire community and county,” said Ms. Matuku.

In his advice, Mr. Titus Nyanzu encapsulated the essence of a collaborative approach between farmers and the expert community. Recognizing that researchers and extension officers offer a wealth of expertise and research-backed insights, he encouraged his fellow farmers to view their recommendations as indispensable tools for success in mango farming.

Revitalizing Kitui County’s Mango Industry through Integrated Pest Management

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