Woody plant species have been deliberately introduced into many arid and semi-arid regions across the world as they can help combat desertification and provide resources – like fuelwood – to the rural poor. But some of these alien trees and shrubs have become invasive, having devastating effects on other species as well as people.
This is big problem in the mainly arid Baringo County, in Kenya’s Rift valley as well as other counties north, east and south of the country.
A team of international scientists, including CABI’s Dr Urs Schaffner, have recommended ways to manage the devastating spread of the woody weed Prosopis juliflora, where in Baringo County, Kenya, its coverage rapidly increased by 2,031 percent in just 28 years.
PhD student Purity Rima Mbaabu, affiliated to the University of Nairobi and co-supervised by Simon Choge, Kenya Forestry Research Institute, Dr Sandra Eckert, Centre for Development and Environment, University of Bern, Switzerland, Profs. Maina Gichaba and Prof. Daniel Olago, University of Nairobi, and Dr Schaffner, is lead author of new research which states that the rates of Prosopis invasion in Kenya are a ‘major threat to the environment and rural people’s livelihoods.’
The study calls for the ‘urgent implementation of coordinated and sustainable Prosopis management in Baringo County and other invaded areas in East Africa’.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s the group of closely-related woody plant species and hybrids known as Prosopis were seen as a ‘saviour’ for millions of pastoralists and agro-pastoralists in East Africa whose very livelihoods were threatened by the degradation of dryland ecosystems spurred on by overgrazing, and by deforestation and a shortage of firewood.
A new weapon in the fight against the fall armyworm caterpillar in Kenya is being launched giving thousands of smallholder farmers free expert help and advice on how to tackle the devastating pest through mobile SMS text messaging.
From a distance, Wycliffe Ngoda’s two acres of shiny green maize crops look healthy and lush. But the tell-tale holes in the leaves and debris on the stems give away an increasingly dangerous secret hidden in more and more maize fields across Kenya and sub-Saharan Africa. The rampant Fall Armyworm caterpillar is once again threatening harvests across the continent for a second year.
The pest, which arrived in Africa from the Americas in 2016, affected around 50,000 hectares of maize in Kenya alone last year, costing 25 per cent of the crop, according to government officials.
The recent outbreak of Ebola virus disease in West Africa made headline news around the world. During the outbreak this fatal disease, endemic to parts of Central and West Africa, rapidly spread from Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia to other countries in the region such as Nigeria, Mali and Senegal and then further afield to the USA, UK and Spain, mainly through infected health workers. This prompted decisive action from governments around the world and led to the implementation of strict controls at most national points of entry – as a result of this action and increased awareness, the further spread of this disease was effectively halted. No new infections have been reported for a number of months now but the cost has been significant – more than 10,000 people lost their lives, mainly in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. However, it is highly probable that without significant interventions the costs could have been far higher. For example, the outbreak of bubonic plague or Black Death in Europe in the 17th century resulted in the death of 34 million people. The accidental introduction of potato blight, a crop disease which affects potatoes, from the Americas to Ireland in the mid-1800s contributed to the starvation of about 1 million people. Rinderpest, a disease affecting livestock was accidentally introduced to Africa from Asia in the late 19th century resulting in the deaths of, it is claimed, a third of the human population of what is now Ethiopia and two-thirds of the Maasai, an ethnic group of pastoralists in East Africa who are totally dependent on livestock. We may ask what Ebola, potato blight and rinderpest have in common – well obviously they have all have had a devastating impact on humanity but what binds them all together is that they are all INVASIVE ALIEN SPECIES (IAS). Fortunately, due to concerted efforts by a range of agencies rinderpest has been eradicated from the planet but as a result of increased trade, travel and tourism more and more species are being moved around the world and many are establishing and are continuing to have devastating impact on livelihoods. Continue reading →