Innovative Effort to Combat Invasive Apple Snails Threatening Kenya’s Rice Crops

Kello Harsama

In a bold move to safeguard Kenya’s vital rice industry, Kenya has unveiled a groundbreaking pilot control operation targeting the invasive apple snail population. The initiative was inaugurated at the Mwea Rice Scheme in Kirinyaga County by Permanent Secretary Kello Harsama, head of the State Department for Crop Development within the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development,. This crucial rice-growing area has been grappling with the detrimental effects of these snails on its rice crops.

Addressing the urgent need for action, PS Kello Harsama shared that the invasive apple snails had been wreaking havoc on rice crops in Mwea and posed a significant risk of spreading to other rice-growing regions. These snails can potentially inflict severe damage to rice fields, resulting in reduced yields and threatening food security. In response to this threat, the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development procured a substantial quantity of Biograde pesticides, totaling 20,000 liters, to initiate the control operation and mitigate the impact of these migratory pests.

Rice holds a pivotal role in Kenya’s agricultural landscape, ranking as the third most important cereal crop. Recognizing its significance, the government has prioritized rice production under the Bottom-Up Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA). As part of this overarching strategy, the Ministry is actively executing the National Rice Development Strategy Phase 2 (2018-2030) aimed at enhancing rice production, reducing grain loss, increasing farmer income, and bolstering overall food and nutrition security.

One of the central facets of this effort is the promotion of high-yielding rice varieties, such as the Komboka strain, which has demonstrated the potential to yield up to an impressive 40 bags of 50kg rice per acre. This shift towards advanced and productive varieties is crucial to meeting the growing rice demand while ensuring farmers’ economic viability.

To ensure the success of the pilot control operation targeting the golden apple snail, a Multi-Institutional Technical Team (MITT) has been established, comprising experts and county extension staff. This collaborative approach is anticipated to yield valuable insights into the effectiveness of the initiative and provide a blueprint for future pest management strategies.

The launch event witnessed the presence of distinguished individuals, including Deputy Governor David Githanda, Senator James Kamau Murango, Mwea MP Mary Maingi, and various Members of County Assembly (MCAs). Their participation underscored the collective commitment towards securing the livelihoods of rice farmers and the sustenance of a vital component of Kenya’s agricultural heritage.