The South America tomato leafminer, Tuta absoluta (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae), spreads its wings in eastern Africa: distribution and socioeconomic impacts.
Following the arrival of Tuta absoluta Meyrick in the eastern African subregion in 2012, several studies have shown numerous ecological aspects of its invasion. We investigated the impact of T. absoluta on people's livelihoods across four counties of Kenya. Here, 200 farmers in the country were interviewed in person using semistructured questionnaires. In addition to livelihood surveys, T. absoluta distribution was mapped between 2016 and 2018 to determine its current distribution across four countries (Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda) in the subregion. Albeit a recent invader, T. absoluta is abundant and distributed throughout the subregion and is viewed as the worst invasive alien species of agriculturally sustainable livelihoods by tomato farmers. The arrival of T. absoluta in the subregion has resulted in livelihood losses and increased both the cost of tomato production and frequency of pesticide application. We recommend the implementation of biological control along, with other control measures in an integrated approach, against T. absoluta in the subregion, where its impact on sustainable livelihoods is serious and long-term control strategies are required to curb its detrimental effects.