In addition to be used as a trap plant in the Push-Pull technology, Napier grass is the most important fodder crop in smallholder dairy production systems in East Africa, characterized by small zero grazing units. The major threat to adoption and expansion of the push-pull technology, and to the smallholder dairy industry, is the stunt disease of Napier grass . The etiology of the disease is known to be a phytoplasma, 16SrXI strain. Although, the putative insect vector was yet unknown, we have recently identified a leafhopper, Recilia banda Kramer (Hemiptera: Cicadellidae) as the vector of Napier stunt phytoplasma in Kenya.

Napier grass, Pennisetum purpureum (Poaceae), is an important crop that significantly contributes to livelihoods of small-scale farmers in western Kenya by supporting the smallholder dairy and cereal production systems in the region. It is the main fodder for the dairy industry, in addition to its novel use as a trap plant for management of cereal stemborer pests in the ‘push–pull’ technology. It also serves as a soil conservation crop that is planted for environmental protection to stabilize soils and act as windbreak, a building material, and as firewood. Cultivation of Napier grass has recently intensified in East Africa as small-scale dairy farming shifted from extensive to zero-grazing systems in the areas where farm holding sizes are small. Farmers who have no livestock or have excess fodder sell bundles of Napier grass to other farmers in need of fodder (see below), making the crop a valuable source of income to farm households in the region.

Climate change is anticipated to have far reaching effects on sustainable development of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), including the ability to attain the Millennium Development Goals (sdgs). Rainfall is becoming progressively more unpredictable in the region, accompanied by increases in atmospheric temperature. Predictions indicate that these trends will continue, together with increased incidences of floods and drought, expanded host and habitat ranges of pests and weeds (and pressure from these). Moreover, Agriculture is expected to intensify during the next few decades to meet the extra food demand from a growing population. These will result into progressively more serious land degradation, increased incidences of crop failure and general increases in food and nutritional insecurity among resource poor farmers in the region.

The shortage of desmodium seeds is an important limiting factor for much wider dissemination of the 'Push-Pull' technology in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Although technology and methods for the production of seeds and development of local markets are now developed in collaboration with farmers, local seed companies and stockists, availability of large quantities of good quality seeds is essential for the planned full scale expansion. Recently an external review of icipe programmes concluded that this problem should be given high priority as it is a major cause of the limited spread of the 'Push-Pull' system. According to the reviewer efforts to select high seed yielding varieties should also be undertaken.

Our Goal
“To end hunger and poverty for 10 million people by extending Push-Pull technology to 1 million households in sub-Saharan Africa by 2020”, Zeyaur Khan, Coordinator, Push-Pull Programme
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