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Government announces measures to tame increasing pests and disease

Kenya has over the last few years been experiencing increased pest threat invasion.

This has been occasioned by increased movement of plants, plant material and articles across its borders that harbour pests in addition to the effects of climate change.

Speaking during a national validation workshop for the Plant Protection Bill 2021 in Nairobi, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya said the country needs to boost overall farmer productivity and more importantly also protect and safeguard Kenya’s agriculture against external threats, including introduction of foreign pests and diseases.

“There is a real and present threat of new pests affecting basic food security and major agricultural exports. Kenya and Africa as a whole is faced with pest incursions such as the Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease (MLND), fall armyworm, False Codling Moth, desert locust, the Golden Apple snail, Papaya Mealybug, Tuta absoluta and Cuscuta which are a threat to food security as well as threatening our horticultural exports,” said Munya.

The CS reiterated that in the past few years the pests have caused great crop losses leading to various interventions by governments including diverting resources that could have been used for other development programmes.

“The presence and attack of crops by the pests have led to Kenya losing key segments of the international markets.  But largely we are also grappling with the increasing effects of the climate change,” he added.

Government, the CS said has however fast-tracked interventions such as diverting resources that could have been used for other development programmes to address the situation.

He said that the current guiding statute on plant health and phytosanitary issues is the Plant protection Act, Cap 324 which was enacted in 1937, is old and has a number of limitations.

The Plant Protection Act, the CS noted, is being reviewed in order to strengthen the law to effectively deal with current and emerging plant health challenges in the country, adding that the drafting of the bill and regulations has evaluated the current phytosanitary system and identified the issues that hinder implementation of an efficient plant health system.

“These regulations will not only protect Kenya’s resources, but will also create an effective framework to facilitate fair and safe competitive international trade”, Munya said

Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) Managing Director Theophilus Mutui said the new bill aims at prevention of the introduction, establishment and spread of pests through plants, plants products.

“The process of developing the regulations began last year and has steadily followed through towards developing an all-inclusive bill and regulation that will accommodate all matters plant health in the Country,” Mutui added.

Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa country manager for Kenya John Macharia stated that current Agriculture growth is not in tandem with the increasing population.

“For us to tackle the increasing poverty and hunger, there is a need for all the stakeholders to come and apply a different thinking,” said Macharia.

The draft Bill, comes at an opportune time when the world just celebrated the international year of plant health in 2020, once enacted, will also enable Kenya meet international plant protection convention obligations.

Kenya’s performance of the agriculture sector broadly reflects the socioeconomic status of the country. It contributes 24 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 60 per cent of export earnings and a further 27 per cent through linkages with the manufacturing, distribution and service sectors.

By Wangari Ndirangu

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