Kenya: Indigenous technology fights banana diseases (by Sawa Pius, for Farm Radio Weekly, in Mombasa, Kenya)

| November 3, 2008

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Small scale farmers in western Kenya have brought back indigenous knowledge to fight pests such as the nematodes that affect local bananas. The farmers use ash, hot water, and the local green vegetable Crotalaria ochroleuca, called mitoo in the Lughya community. This helps to reduce their use of chemicals, promote organic agricutlure, and increase farm production.

Habakku Khamala is a farmer from Shibuli village in Kakamega district. He wards off nematodes by treating banana suckers with hot water. The roots of the sucker are chopped off almost completely. Then water is boiled and left to cool until it is lukewarm. The base of the banana sucker is then dipped in the lukewarm water for 20 minutes. Mr. Khamala says this suffocates and kills any nematodes without harming the plant itself.

Spreading ash around the stem of the banana is another way to kill nematodes. Mr. Khamala explains that, when it rains, the ash sinks into the soil, killing any nematodes.

Another method involves the indigenous vegetable Crotalaria ochroleuca, popularly called mitoo in the Lughya community of western Kenya. Mitoo is said to contain a poison that kills nematodes on contact. Farmers clean around the banana stem and plant mitoo in this area. The vegetable is readily available and a good source of nutrients.

A collaboration between scientists from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology has worked to promote these indigenous technologies. The scientists visit farms in the morning to inspect the fields, helping to identify friendly insects and manage pests.

Mr. Khamala stresses that these low cost methods of managing nematodes are not new. They have been used in the area for ages, dating back to a time when his ancestors grew healthy bananas. But now the methods are increasing in popularity, as modern farmers learn that they work well.

Indigenous technology field schools help to spread the word. There are now more than 800 such schools in the Kakamega, Bungoma, and Busia districts – each with 24 farmers.

Click here to see the notes to broadcasters on indigenous knowledge