Tomato leafminer (Tuta absoluta): Impacts and coping strategies for Africa
Published: May, 2019
The recently introduced tomato leafminer, Tuta absoluta, has become the most important pest constraint to tomato production in Africa. Spreading at an average 800 km/year, it is now present in 41 African countries. The socio-economic impacts of Tuta absoluta were assessed through a household survey in Kenya and Zambia in 2018, covering 400 respondents in Kenya and 426 in Zambia. We found that 97.9% of farmers in Zambia, and 99% in Kenya reported Tuta absoluta as the main problem for tomato production. A majority of farmers in Zambia (57%) had lost a large proportion of their crop to Tuta absoluta, compared to 41% in Kenya. Mean seasonal production loss based on farmers’ own estimates was 114,000 tonnes for Kenya and 10,700 tonnes for Zambia, equivalent to US$ 59.3, and US$ 8.7 million in economic losses respectively.
Pesticides were the predominant control method for Tuta absoluta, used by 96.5% of farmers in Kenya and 97.6% of farmers in Zambia, with 6.4% using highly toxic products. However, only 27.2% and 17.2% of farmers in Kenya and Zambia, respectively, indicated the pesticide treatments were very successful. In Kenya, 73.1% of farmers applied 1-5 sprays/season, and in Zambia 29.2% applied 1-5 sprays, and 33.9% applied 6-10. The average amount spent on pesticides per household against Tuta absoluta was US$ 47.2 in Kenya, about US$ 33.7/ha, while in Zambia, this cost was US$ 42.1 per household, and US$ 9.4/ha. The average cost for a pesticide application against Tuta absoluta in Kenya was US$ 12.3, and US$ 4.2 in Zambia. The implications of these findings for sustainable management of this pest are discussed.