EAST AFRICA – Experts from the Food and Agriculture Organisation Sub-regional Office for Eastern Africa (FAO SFE), the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD), and global actors on biological controls are mulling adopting biological control methods and the use of biopesticides for effective pest management in Eastern Africa

This approach is crucial for enhancing food security, promoting sustainable agriculture, and safeguarding the environment and human health.

Charles Owach, the assistant FAO representative/Programmes in Uganda, emphasized the significance of embracing ecological approaches to pest management. 

He stressed that biological control and biopesticides have the potential to effectively manage plant pests, thereby contributing positively to agricultural production and productivity in Uganda. 

The sub-regional consultative meeting, attended by senior officials from nine Eastern African countries, aimed to address the challenges and benefits associated with the adoption of biological control and biopesticides.

The consultation meeting not only focused on the use of biological control and biologicals for managing field pests but also explored their potential in post-harvest pest management. 

Crop losses due to pests have been on the rise, necessitating the adoption of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies that are environmentally friendly and sustainable. Biological control agents have emerged as the most ecosystem-friendly, cost-effective method of pest management. 

By reducing reliance on synthetic chemical pesticides, the use of biologicals promotes the protection of human health and the environment.

Addressing constraints and maximizing potential

Several factors currently constrain the uptake and utilization of biological pest control measures in Eastern Africa. 

These include inadequate knowledge and awareness, a lack of appropriate infrastructure and resources, the complexity of agroecological systems that affect the efficacy of biological control agents, and weak regulatory frameworks for ensuring safe and effective use. 

To fully realize the potential of biological control and biopesticides, these constraints need to be addressed through capacity building, improved infrastructure, and the development of robust regulatory frameworks.

David Chimimba Phiri, the Subregional Coordinator for Eastern Africa (SFE) and FAO representative to the African Union (AU) highlighted the insufficiency and potential harm of solely relying on conventional pest management methods such as chemical pesticides. 

He stressed the importance of seeking alternatives that are environmentally friendly and pose no risks to human health. 

“By utilizing natural enemies of pests, such as predatory arthropods and beneficial microorganisms, we can mitigate pest problems and restore the delicate balance of ecosystems, in the process protecting the health of crops in a sustainable manner.

“Biopesticides, derived from natural sources, offer attractive alternatives to synthetic chemical pesticides. Biological control and the use of biopesticides contribute to minimizing the risks associated with conventional chemical pesticides,” he added.

Stephen Byantwale, the Acting Director of Crop Resources at the Ministry of Agriculture, acknowledged the timeliness and importance of the consultation meeting. 

He highlighted the significant impact of pests and diseases on trade in plants and plant products, leading to interceptions due to the presence of harmful organisms. 

The government has already adopted measures such as Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and has achieved success in controlling pests like water hyacinth, maize stalk borers, and the mango mealybug through the implementation of biological control methods.

The consultation meeting in Eastern Africa brings together regional experts and global actors to address the challenges and explore the potential of biological control and biopesticides in pest management.

By promoting the use of environmentally friendly methods, Eastern African countries can enhance food security, improve agricultural productivity, and safeguard the health of ecosystems and communities. 

Continued collaboration between stakeholders, capacity-building initiatives, and the development of supportive policies and infrastructure are vital for the successful implementation and integration of biological control.

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