A Platform Technology for Improving Livelihoods of Resource Poor Farmers in Africa

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Stemborers, parasitic striga weeds and poor soil fertility are the three main constraints to efficient production of cereals in SSA. Losses caused by stemborers can reach as high as 80% in some areas and an average of about 15-40% in others. Losses attributed to striga weeds on the other hand range between 30 and 100% in most areas, and are often exacerbated by the low soil fertility prevalent in the region. The soils are highly degraded due to continuous cropping with limited or no external inputs to improve soil fertility. When the two pests occur together, farmers often lose their entire crop. Crop losses caused by stemborers and striga weeds amount to about US $ 7 billion annually, affecting mostly the resource poor subsistence farmers.

Control of stemborers using pesticides is not only expensive and harmful to the environment, but usually ineffective as the chemicals cannot reach deep inside the plant stems where stemborer larvae reside. Similarly use of herbicides against Striga is neither effective nor feasible among smallholders in the region for both biological and socio-economic reasons. Preventing crop losses from stemborers and striga weeds, and improving soil fertility in eastern Africa alone could increase cereal harvests enough to feed an additional 27 million people in the region.

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