Kenya: Sustainable biopesticides for horticulture

In recent years, there has been a growing complexity of phytosanitary challenges in the horticulture and floriculture sectors due to the increased global movement of agricultural produce. The overreliance on synthetic pesticides poses threats to quality and international competitiveness. The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands held a workshop to promote biopesticides at the 2023 Naivasha Horticulture Fair as a sustainable solution to evolving sanitary and phytosanitary standards.

In recent years, phytosanitary-related challenges have become more complex, mainly due to the increased movement of agricultural produce and regulated materials from one country to another. Kenya is no exception. Some of these pests and diseases have the capacity to directly affect consumers, damage crops, and the natural environment. Their impact is widespread, given that most of these pests and diseases are transboundary. The burden to control them mainly falls on the producers. This directly affects the quality of produce and ultimately competitiveness of Kenyan produce on the international market. Overreliance on synthetic pesticides has made this worse due to heightened demands on the use of pesticides that are in alignment with the phytosanitary standards for the import and export markets. Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards (SPS) measures are now a strategic tool for developing and differentiating markets, increasing market access, coordinating the quality and safety of food systems, and defining market niches for export products.

For sustainability, the safe use of chemicals in production is key to meeting the SPS standards. It is towards this goal, that the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, together with partners, held a workshop during the 20th edition of the Naivasha Horticultural fair in Naivasha- Nakuru County, where stakeholders shared experiences on the use of bio solutions, regulation policies and the role that all play in enabling the transition to the use of biopesticides, as a solution to changing Sanitary and Phytosanitary requirements in the horticulture and Floriculture sectors.

Bart Pauwels, Agriculture Counsellor at the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, opened the workshop forum by highlighting the changing demands from government to government for stringent sanitary phytosanitary standards, that is informed by the changing environment for production and growing demands by consumers. “Pests are becoming more resistant to pesticides, and the effects of climate change are worsening the production environment in agriculture. It is therefore imperative for the sector to adapt to these changes and seek safer solutions to addressing the pest and disease menace in a bid to safeguard trade.”

Regulatory agencies in Kenya, such as Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS), Kenya Flower Council (KFC), Pest Control Products Board (PCPB), and IBMA (International Biocontrol Manufacturers Association), have been working with growers, researchers, and agro-chemicals suppliers to ensure that the pesticides used in production are in alignment with the phytosanitary standards for the import and export markets.

According to Sarah Wambugu, Senior Pesticide Registration Officer- Pest Control Products Board (PCPB), “With the changing SPS requirements, there has been increased interest in licensing biocontrol solutions that aim to reduce the overuse of synthetic chemicals.”

It was noted that production and commercialization of bio-pesticides is hampered by lengthy and costly registration processes and inadequate production, distribution and storage infrastructure. The situation is compounded by a lack of awareness to the public and the proliferation of adulterated products. This is a challenge in the Bio-control space since most products have a limited shelf life, hence making it very expensive for many manufacturers to introduce biopesticides.

To address this, there was a proposal to PCPB to consider providing temporary permits for products that have been approved in other key markets. This way, more producers in the Horticulture and Floriculture sectors will be able to access the biopesticides solutions. Sarah added that PCPB makes exemptions in special cases, such as emergencies from pest and disease outbreaks, and is in the process of exploring other opportunities to hasten the approval process.

Kenya’s floriculture sector is advanced with reference to regulatory systems. According to John Njenga, Scheme Manager- Kenya Flower Council, the council is working towards compliance by its members to global standards and has set 2025 as the year to attain full compliance. “By becoming members of Kenya Flower Council, we monitor our members’ usage of chemicals through data collection and audits undertaken to make sure that compliance is achieved. Through compliance and accreditation by the council, It becomes easier for them to access all markets. However, the cost of transition from synthetic to some of the biopesticides is very high. This poses a risk of adoption by the producers. There is a need to seek ways to make bio-control solutions affordable and accessible.”

Farmers who have started to use bio-protection solutions are already noting positive changes in the quality of their produce. Amala Munyendo – a farm manager, noted that by using biopesticides, their use of synthetic chemicals has remarkably reduced the prevalence of pests, too. On the other hand, Avinash Mokate highlighted that, at the onset of using bio solutions, the results are achieved at a much slower rate, but once the soil gains its health, the yields increase, and the maintenance cost also reduces. “However, it’s important to note that the efficacy of biopesticides can vary depending on factors like crop type, pest species, and local environmental conditions. Integrated pest management (IPM) strategies that combine various pest control methods, including biopesticides, synthetic pesticides, and cultural practices, are often the most effective way to address pest challenges while meeting SPS standards.

Source: agroberichtenbuitenland.nl

Publication date: Wed 17 Jan 2024