The apple snail invasion could be “devastating” for rice production and food security in Kenya as well as other rice-growing regions across Africa, according to a new CABI-led study published in the journal Pest Management Science.
The scientists, led by Kate Constantine, Project Scientist at CABI, highlighted the apple snail (Pomacea canaliculata) as a serious problem in the Mwea Irrigation Scheme in Kenya. Extension agents stated that the apple snail is one of the top five complaints of farmers and agro-dealers reported that 70% of complaints per day are due to the apple snail.
Household surveys and focus group discussions with smallholder farmers, along with key informant interviews, revealed that invasive species—native to South America—reduced rice yields by up to 14% and the net income of rice is up to 60% for farmers experiencing a moderate level of infestation (> 20% of the cultivated area affected).
The researchers stress that it is “essential” that strategies to limit the spread of the apple snail are implemented quickly. This includes, the scientists say, awareness raising, outreach and capacity building at all levels of the farming system.
In Kenya, nearly 300,000 smallholder farmers are involved in rice cultivation, not only to provide labor but also for their livelihood, with the Mwea Irrigation Scheme in Kirinyaga County accounting for 80-88% of rice production in the country.
The Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture & Livestock Development predicts that rice consumption will reach 1,292,000 tons by 2030. As a result, rice has been identified as a priority value chain in the National Agriculture Investment Plan (NAIP 2018-2028) and National Rice Development Strategy- 2 (2019-2030), which aims to transform Kenya’s agriculture towards sustainable food and nutrition security and socio-economic development.
However, there is considerable untapped potential to expand rice production in the country, with estimates suggesting a production potential of up to 1.3 million hectares of irrigated rice.
Constantine said, “Rice production has seen steady growth in demand over the past three decades, with its potential to improve rural livelihoods widely recognized. In Kenya, rice is the third most important cereal grain after corn and wheat, and its consumption is increasing. at a faster rate than production.”
“However, rice farmers in Mwea are facing various challenges, including water scarcity, rice blast attack, high input costs, low land productivity, lack of of machinery, damage to birds, poor infrastructure, and lack of durable and acceptable varieties of rice.”
“The recent introduction of the apple snail has added to these challenges, posing a serious threat to rice production in the region and potentially across Africa.”
Fernadis Makale, co-author, added that, in response to the threat of the apple snail, a Multi-Institutional Technical Team (MITT) drawn from various national and international institutions was established to lead the efforts of manage and provide integrated advice to farmers on how to effectively manage the pest.
The researchers found that farmers reported increased use of chemicals to try and control the apple snail as well as the expensive practice of hired labor to physically remove the eggs and snails.
Makale said, “The negative effects will only increase over time as the apple snail continues to spread. This is a call for urgent action. There is a rapidly closing window of opportunity for potential prevention, or it is still possible to eradicate, before the apple snail becomes widespread in Kenya, and the only viable option is management, with high economic, livelihood and environmental costs.
Scientists argue that if no action is taken to reduce the spread, the consequences will be disastrous, not only for farmers in Mwea but further afield. For example, if the snail spreads to the irrigated rice production area of Ahero, on the banks of Lake Victoria, rice production in Tanzania and Uganda will be threatened, and from here it is inevitable that further spread will occur.
“There are also serious food security implications as the apple snail threatens any progress made towards Kenya’s self-sufficiency in rice production,” Constantine added.
Kate L. Constantine et al, Assessing the socio-economic impacts associated with the arrival of the apple snail (Pomacea canaliculata) in the Mwea Irrigation Scheme, Kenya, Pest Management Science (2023). DOI: 10.1002/ps.7638
Citation: Apple snail invasion could be ‘disastrous’ for rice production and food security in Kenya, study reveals (2023, July 17) retrieved on 17 July 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023 -07-apple-snail-invasion -disastrous-rice.html
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