26 June 2018

East Africa: EAC Beefs Up Efforts Against Invasive Weed

EAST African countries remain in danger of a devastating weed; parthenium hysterophorus that has already inflicted costs to farmers as experts strain themselves to contain it.

The ECHO East Africa Impact Center in collaboration with other partners and community is working out ways of containing the killer plant that is fast spreading in several parts of the countries within East African Community (EAC).

Speaking to the 'Daily News' , the Technical Advisor with the East Africa Impact Centre, Mr Charles Bonaventure said that the weed has already found its way into Kagera region having wreaked havoc across Arusha, Kilimanjaro and Manyara regions as well as in other EAC member states and ECHO is doing the best to mitigate the effects.

"The campaigning team of 10 people was formed and is coordinated by ECHO staff. Efforts to discuss how to mitigate the effects of parthenium with the Government officials and other partners is among the priority of ECHO. At the moment though meetings with key leaders and stakeholders we have been finding ways out," said Mr Bonaventure.

He noted that they have also been conducting workshops in collaboration with other partners such as Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI), Tropical Pesticides Research Institute (TPRI), Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA), government institutions, Nature Conservers, civil societies, media, field visits, talking with visitors, schools, clubs, different hubs, symposium and sharing printing materials such as leaflets, presentations and brochures.

He said that the invasive weed is of negative global significance on agricultural and grazing lands, wildlife, human and animal health. Besides it has allelopathic properties that inhibits the germination and growth of other plants.

Parthenium grows anywhere and invades riparian zones, roadsides, along railways and in pastures, seasonal floodplains, grasslands, open woodlands, waste areas, disturbed sites, lawns, gardens and crops. It is particularly aggressive in degraded or disturbed pastures in semi-arid environments.

"Arusha is currently the worst affected region in the country. Parthenium is considered to be the most important weed both in croplands and grazing areas by more than 50 per cent in some villages.

Farmers are facing low harvest and dozens of animals have died from suspected grazing on parthenium in areas like Kwa Mkonoo and Mbuguni in the southern part of Arusha region," said the expert.

In 2016 one of the livestock keeper from Kwa Mkonoo claimed that seven of her cattle died as she was feeding parthenium. Due to its proximity to Arusha, parthenium poses an ecological threat to the nearby world famous national parks such as Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Manyara.

Mr Bonaventure said that to control the weed, it is recommended to pull out the plants before they flower, making sure to remove all of the root system to avoid re-growth from root remnants, and burning of the weeds especially at household level and around the streets by use of lightweight long sleeved garments cotton gloves to avoid contact with the skin.

"ECHO has facilitated five 'pulling our parthenium days' with the help of the stakeholders. ECHO has improvised with the use of cheap plastic bags instead of the market-purchased gloves.

In collaboration with TPRI, Selian Agriculture Research Institute (SARI) and Wheaton College, ECHO shares best practices and information to other networks dealing with community including hospitals and dispensaries around Arusha, such as the Regional Hospital and Aga Khan Hospital," he unveiled.

Currently, through the collaboration more than 4,000 individuals have been made aware on the ill effects of parthenium and farmer-friendly ways of eradication. ECHO has also prepared a You-tube video on parthenium that has exceeded 1,000 views on the internet.

There are a number of ways to control parthenium; mechanical, chemical and biological. There are herbicides registered for use against the weed elsewhere in the world.

Through pulling and burning methods ECHO has facilitated the mechanical means of control. It recommends proper use of herbicides such as following instructions on the labels in the chemical means of control.

"Biological control offers the prospect of sustainable control of parthenium which will be tested soon in Tanzania. These include the use of insect (zygogrammabicolorata) that feeds on parthenium.

While the efficacy of these methods are being tested, ECHO believes prevention is the best cure to control parthenium, hence ECHO will continue its efforts to create awareness and training on parthenium and its eradication to fulfill the mission of reducing hunger improving lives worldwide," said the expert.

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