~ By Simeon Kibet ~
In 2018, the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly declared the year 2020 as the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH), a once in a lifetime opportunity for governments around the world to focus on the importance of plants and plant materials and to create awareness on the role of protecting plant health to end hunger, reduce poverty, protect the environment and boost economic development.
Plants are indispensable for human existence. Besides providing us with 80% staple food and 98% of the air we breathe, some plant species are used for medicine, livestock feed and construction materials, among others. Nonetheless, these plants are increasingly facing threats such as pests and diseases, cross-boundary transfer of pests through international travel and trade, disruptive human activities and climate change.
These threats contribute a great deal to food insecurity. Experts estimate that up to 40% of crop losses occur due to pest invasion, costing the global economy over $220 billion annually.
It is important to note that we all have a role to play in ensuring that we protect our plant resources.
As countries around the world gradually commence global travel after a lull due to Covid-19, passengers are urged to be cautious when bringing plants and their products across borders; all plants in passengers’ possession need to be declared at designated points of entry such as airports and border points. KEPHIS, as the National Plant Protection Organization, requires that all passengers declare any and all plant materials in their possession at our offices which are located at designated entry points of Kenya for inspection. Inspectors verify if the material meets phytosanitary (plant health) requirements and in turn prevents the entry of injurious pests and diseases that could adversely affect our agricultural resources; further material imported through courier from international markets require an import permit as well as a declaration to KEPHIS office for inspection; Plants in passengers possession include seeds, leaves, stems, among others; no plant is too small or insignificant to declare.
Traders must comply with the international plant health standards developed by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) to avoid intentional pest entry while ensuring that no unnecessary trade barriers are set up. KEPHIS has an Electronic Certification System (ECS) that maintains phytosanitary certification to ensure that all imports and exports meet required market standards.
Farmers and policymakers should adopt eco-friendly measures like integrated pest management to ensure that the ecosystem is not altered leading to climate change that creates new niches for plant pests and diseases to thrive.
As agriculture is a devolved function, national and county governments can create synergies for improved agricultural production to enhance local and international trade, leading to increased incomes for farmers and those in the agricultural value chain. Currently, the national government, the county government of Makueni and stakeholders are aiming to improve the production and quality of mangoes in the county by mitigating against the notorious fruit fly. The awareness is done through a campaign dubbed Komesha Fruit Fly Ufaidike which was launched in Makueni County this year. We hope that this initiative will lead to the resumption of the export of Kenya’s mangoes to our key overseas markets.
I call upon all Kenyans to participate in plant protection activities throughout this year and beyond.
Let us protect our plants and protect our life.
Mr. Kibet is Ag. MD,
Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service - KEPHIS