CABI has shared its expertise – gleaned from digital extension know-how and application in global programmes such as Plantwise, Action on Invasives (AoI) and the new PlantwisePlus – at the 3rd International Phytosanitary Conference held recently.

Scientists based at CABI’s regional centre for Africa in Nairobi, Kenya, took part in two special sessions at the conference – hosted and delivered virtually by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) as part of International Year of Plant Health 2020 – in alignment with the theme ‘Enhancing phytosanitary systems for healthy plants, safe and sustainable trade.’

The conference was also co-sponsored by CABI along with others including the Kenyan government, the Center of Phytosanitary Excellence (COPE), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Syngenta, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Year of Plant Health 2020.

Impact of pests and diseases

In a speech read on behalf of Hon. Peter G. Munya, Cabinet Secretary for Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives, Douglas Kangi, the Director of Crops Management told the delegates that globally pests and diseases affect the quality of crops and reduce crop production by 33% – resulting in the loss of income and disruptions of international markets, thereby affecting trade between countries.

He added that with the world facing unprecedented global warming – which has greatly affected how we grow our food and feed and how we trade – this, together with increased global trade, has necessitated the need for seed varieties tolerant to pests and drought as well as greater efforts to mitigate invasive alien pests and diseases.

The Cabinet Secretary’s speech also stressed that the theme of the conference was very apt in that despite the challenges, immense opportunities are available. These include the automation of phytosanitary systems, increased collaboration with local and international partners and awareness and sensitization forums for farmers and other stakeholders.

On the opening day of the conference, Dr Joseph Mulema gave an overview of CABI’s global programmes – including Plantwise, AoI and PlantwisePlus – before CABI intern Mercy Rono spoke about how extensive surveillance of key potato growing areas in Kenya confirmed the absence of potato ring rot (Clavibacter sepedonicus). Lucy Karanja then presented the issue of Pectobacterium species in the soils of smallholder potato farmers in Kenya.

Digital tools 

On the final day, Dr Joseph Mulema gave an overview of CABI digital tools which included the new Pest Risk Analysis tool, Horizon scanning tool, various compendia especially the Crop Protection Compendium and Invasive species compendium both of which are very important in phytosanitary work. Dr MaryLucy Oronje and George Momanyi, Chief Inspector from KEPHIS, spoke in more depth about the use of digital tools to monitor and manage phytosanitary risks. Dr Oronje’s talk introduced the concept of horizon scanning and insight reporting for monitoring and managing phytosanitary risks while Mr Momanyi expanded on how this can be used to prioritize Invasive Alien Species (IAS) – such as the fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) – that has the potential to threaten Kenya’s agriculture, biodiversity and economy.

Dr Morris Akiri, CABI’s Senior Regional Director, Africa, said, “A recent CABI-led study revealed that Invasive Alien Species are estimated to cost Africa’s agricultural sector USD 65.58 billion a year – equivalent to 2.5% of the Gross Domestic Product of all African countries combined.
“It is imperative, therefore, that we utilize opportunities presented by events such as the International Phytosanitary Conference to come together and share expertise to find innovative and sustainable ways to help millions of smallholder farmers grow more and lose less to pests and diseases – thereby not only increasing their livelihoods but also local, national and global food security.”

Export ban lifted

In July, Fresh Fruit reported how Kenya resumed mango exports to Europe after eight years following a self-imposed ban due to interceptions because of fruit flies. Mr Momanyi reported that a certification protocol validated by stakeholders in the value chain had helped exports resume – aided by funding from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) for hot water treatment facilities to eliminate fruit flies before export.

CABI’s work in partnership – as part of a project part-funded by CABI and the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the private sector – in 2018 helped Ghana’s vegetable exports, worth USD 15 million a year, resume after a European ban was imposed in 2015. The work included improving the country’s technical and organizational capacity in its entire horticulture supply chain to allay fears around four quarantine pests including false codling moth, whitefly, thrips and fruit fly. The lifting of the ban means Ghana is once again exporting chilli peppers, bottle gourds, luffa gourds, bitter gourds and eggplants to Europe once more.

Additional information

Main photo: A farmer inspects his tomato crop to check the presence of Tuta absoluta in Kenya (Credit: CABI).


The new CABI-led worldwide programme – PlantwisePlus – has been launched to help support low and lower-middle income countries to predict, prepare themselves for and prevent plant health threats in a changing climate reducing crop losses and empowering farmers to increase income, food security and food safety by producing more and higher quality food.

PlantwisePlus will build on CABI’s Plantwise and Action on Invasives programmes, which have already helped millions of farmers in over 30 countries diagnose and treat pest threats and reduce crop losses by strengthening national plant health systems. Find out more here.

CABI’s regional centre for Africa

CABI has worked in Africa for many years, but in 1995 it formally established a regional centre in Nairobi. In Africa over 80% of people living in rural areas rely on the crops they grow for food and income. They face many challenges in growing sufficient good quality produce, such as changing climatic conditions, threats from pests and diseases, lack of access to markets, and limited access to current agricultural information. Agriculture is essential for sub-Saharan Africa’s economic growth and yet average crop yields in Africa are among the lowest in the world.

CABI’s centre in Kenya strives to improve livelihoods, working with the communities that it serves to address the problems they face using sustainable approaches. Learn more about CABI’s work in Africa here.