SCIPM: project by icipe and partners to improve citrus farming

Nairobi, Kenya, 27 April 2015: A Euro 1.2 million project to address the significant insect pests and diseases constraining the production of citrus fruits in Kenya and Tanzania has been launched.

Titled, Strengthening Citrus production systems through the introduction of IPM measures for pests and diseases in Kenya and Tanzania (SCIPM)”, the initiative is being funded by the German Ministry of Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ).

It will be implemented by: icipe; the Centre for Development Research (ZEF) at the University of Bonn, Germany; Texas A & M University, Kingsville, USA and Citrus Research International, South Africa. These institutions will collaborate with a range of government institutions, including Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service, Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization, University of Nairobi; Tanzania’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperative and Mikocheni Agricultural Research Institute. Other partners will include smallholder citrus farmers, and private sector actors like Real IPM Limited in Kenya.

icipe scientist, Dr Sunday Ekesi explains that, as is the case globally and in the rest of sub Saharan Africa (SSA), citrus fruits are highly ranked in Kenya and Tanzania for household consumption, and as a cash crop with great economic potential. However, over the last decade, the amount of citrus fruits produced in the two countries has been on the decline. For instance, the annual production of sweet oranges, the most widely grown citrus, has been below demand, with smallholders producing just around 4-10 tonnes per hectare, far below the expected 50-75 tonnes per hectare. Indeed, the local requirement for citrus fruits in Kenya and Tanzania is so high that 5 - 21% of it is currently supplemented by imports from South Africa and Egypt. In addition, there is immense potential for citrus produce from the two countries in lucrative export markets.

Dr Ekesi explains that the major constraints to citrus production are insect pests and the diseases they transmit. Two of the most serious pests are the African citrus triozid (ACT) and the false codling moth (FCM). In addition to other damages, ACT transmits a devastating bacteria known as Candidatus Liberibacter africanus (CLaf), which is responsible for the citrus greening or Huanglongbing (HLB) disease. The larvae of FCM damages citrus by boring into fruits, causing them to drop prematurely.The poor quality fruits that remain on the trees are inedible and prone to bacterial and fungal infections. In addition, FCM is a quarantine pest, and the detection of a single larva in fruit destined for export markets can result in the rejection of an entire consignment. HLB is most significant, especially in the highlands where it has caused yield losses between 25% -- 100%, and is infact, implicated in the collapse of the citrus industry in such regions in Kenya.

In an effort to control these two pests, farmers have resorted to widespread and unguided use of pesticides, which are not only expensive, but also often highly toxic with serious negative effects on people and environment. Moreover, such indiscriminate use of pesticides not only kills potentially useful natural enemies, but also leads to insect resistance, rendering the chemicals largely ineffective. Some of the pesticides used are listed as persistent organic pollutants (POPs), leading to rejection of produce in export markets, Dr. Ekesi further notes.

“Based on these issues, thorough and innovative strategic research is required to control ACT and the citrus greening disease, as well as the FCM problems in Kenya and Tanzania. SCIPM intends to develop an integrated pest management programme, also known as IPM, which encompasses various control techniques in Kenya and Tanzania, and beyond,” says Dr. Ekesi.

In general, there is little, if any scientific knowledge on ACT and the citrus greening disease, and FCM in Kenya and Tanzania. For this reason, a key goal of SCIPM is to improve knowledge about the factors that influence the populations dynamics of the two pests, their geographical distribution and the seasons when they are most abundant, to determine disease spread and assess losses.

Another objective of SCIPM is to develop control strategies that are less reliant on harmful pesticides. Therefore, the partners will identify, develop and test the use of several non-synthetic-chemical alternatives (alone or in rotation with ‘softer’ pesticides), for instance natural enemies, natural attractants and repellents, ‘attract-and-kill’ options, bio-rationals (e.g. petroleum oils, botanicals, biopesticide), and intercropping citrus with guava. The partners will also work with farmers towards better management of citrus orchards to sanitize them against pest breeding.

Further, SCIPM will conduct research to assess clean disease-free citrus planting materials and provide information on locations in Kenya and Tanzania that are less prone to HLB infections, where insect-proof nurseries can be established. The project will collaborate with private sector partners to commercialize and promote, making them available to citrus growers across the two countries.

“SCIPM is highly aware that these activities will only be successful if there is participation and awareness among key stakeholders. Therefore, we intend to collaborate with beneficiaries, including farmers and exporters and others along the value chain, from the earliest stage possible. Our goal is to ensure that the stakeholders will have the capacity to use the strategies that will be developed,” says Dr. Ekesi.

He notes that, SCIPM will pay particular attention to creating a level playing ground for women, who make up 50-91% of horticultural labour supply, and who are most often disadvantaged in the sector.

“The overall goal of SCIPM is to increase food self-sufficiency, nutritional security, and income of farming communities. Therefore, we will work with social scientists to ensure that these aspects are assessed throughout the project”, concludes Dr Ekesi.

Issued by icipe. For further information, please contact:

Dr. Sunday Ekesi, Tel: +254 20 8632000, Email: