The dairy industry directly supports at least 2.5 million smallholder farm families in East Africa, making it one of the most important industries in the region. It is estimated that in Kenya alone, at least 800,000 smallholder farmers directly depend on dairy farming for their livelihoods and the products for their nutrition. Dairy farming is practiced within an interlinked crop-livestock production system in East Africa, and Napier grass (Pennisetum purpureum) is the main fodder for the animals. Additionally, Napier grass serves as a critical component of the push-pull technology for control of stemborers, the most injurious insect pests of cereals. However, a stunting disease of Napier grass has emerged in eastern Africa and is quickly spreading in the region, causing serious economic losses in the smallholder dairy industry and cereal systems. Unfortunately there is currently no effective management strategy for the disease. Some farmers have been forced to grow Napier grass over wider areas, but this practice is unsustainable given other land use pressures, land degradation, and the effects of climate change.The project seeks to contribute to poverty alleviation, improved incomes and better livelihoods by providing an effective management approach for the Napier stunt disease that is currently causing huge economic losses and threatening livelihoods of smallholder farm families in East Africa. This will be achieved through integration of various components of disease management and capacity building opportunities Effective management of the disease will ensure sufficient availability of quality fodder and enhance productivity thereby stabilizing dairy and cereal production systems that are dependent on Napier grass. The project also looks into effects of selected Napier cultivars on stemborer and mycotoxin management in maize within the push-pull systems.
Stakeholder identification, mobilization, awareness creation, and establishment of project management structuresParticipatory validation of Napier stunt disease management components in Kenya and UgandaEstablishment of efficient multiplication and distribution systems for resistant Napier grass planting materials to improve farmers’ access to them while serving as a source of incomeScreening of additional Napier cultivars and alternative fodder grasses for resistance to stunt disease; evaluation epidemiology of the disease in the target areas while establishing potential of selected Napier cultivars on stem borer and mycotoxin managementCapacity building of national programs on disease diagnosis and management in Kenya and UgandaPackaging and implementation of an integrated management approach for the Napier stunt disease in Kenya and Uganda, with a backstopping framework, and building capacity of stakeholders in the dairy value chain in the target areas on disease management and animal husbandry
Outputs and Outcomes:
A total of 2185 wild grass samples belonging to 33 grass species within 22 genera have been collected to date. Of all the grasses, about 20% of those sampled in Kenya and 8.92% of grasses from Uganda were phytoplasma-positive. It was found that typical disease symptoms (i.e. white leaf or stunting) alone are not always reliable indicators of phytoplasma presence or absenceFarmer perceptions’ study was conducted to establish how farmers perceive the attributes of disease resistant cultivars with over 90% of farmers expressing willingness to take up the new cultivars because of high palatability, high biomass content and the ability to regenerate faster after harvest.38 farmer groups with a total of 1260 individual farmers (526 males and 734 females) were trained on bulking and distribution of planting material as a business. A total of 126 training events have been conducted in western Kenya through the farmer teachers, ICIPE, and other project partners on management of Napier stunt disease through approaches ranging from the use of disease resistant materials to field hygiene.