The interaction between pests, mixed-maize crop production and food security: a case study of smallholder farmers in Mwea west, Kenya.
Crop pests (weeds, insect pests and pathogens) are recognised worldwide as a serious challenge to agricultural production and threat to food security. Potential losses due to weeds, animal pests and pathogens have been reported at 34%, 18% and 16%, respectively. In monetary terms losses can be high, for example, annual smallholder losses due to just five invasive species in six African countries have been estimated at US$0.9-1.1 billion. Here, smallholder mixed maize farmers' perceptions of the key constraints to their farming practices are considered. Semi-structured interviews with smallholder households, in addition to key informant interviews, reveal that farmers report insect pests, pathogens and weeds (collectively "pests") as the main constraints to farm production. Farmers report yield losses experienced due to pests, together with control expenditure significantly affect net income whilst undermining other livelihood assets. Farmers in Mwea West are highly vulnerable to a range of pests including a number of invasive alien species. Importantly, the farmer perceptions in this study agree with major research studies and confirm the serious impacts of pests on smallholder livelihoods. In order to achieve positive livelihood outcomes there is an urgent need for support to improve smallholder food security; this is especially important for countries with low gross domestic product.