1 March 2014 ¬Ė A two-year project to transfer technology from China to Rwanda started earlier this year. The project, financed by the Agri TT¬† programme, is supporting Rwanda¬ís efforts to improve its soil and solve its insect pest problems with biologically-based crop protection technology from China. The project will use beneficial insect-killing nematodes to control soil insect pests in vegetable production.

Over 90% Rwandan¬ís are dependent on agriculture so any crop losses (including those caused by soil pests) can have devastating effects on the livelihoods of rural communities. In 2011, Rwandan farmers experienced significant losses of cassava, potatoes, beans and other vegetables due to a major outbreak of white grub ¬Ė a soil dwelling pest which feeds on roots.

A researcher from the Rwanda¬ís Agricultural Board¬†Mrs Bancy Waweru explained ¬ďsmallholder farmers have very limited access to solutions to protect their crops against soil pests. In 2011, we worked with the farmers to try to remove thousands of grubs from individual plants by hand as we had no other viable options available.¬Ē

¬ďControlling soil insects is also challenging due to their concealment below ground, making their detection and appropriate and timely control difficult,¬Ē said Mrs Waweru.

The impact of soil pests can also filter through the whole agricultural value chain as poor yields result in demand exceeding supply leading to limited food availability and higher food prices.

¬ďThis project¬†collaborates with smallholder Rwandan farmers and Rwanda¬ís Agricultural Board¬†so they can better¬†respond to this problem by developing and providing access to an environmentally friendly and economically sustainable option that¬ís biologically-based such as entomopathogenic nematodes, to control soil pests. The technology is well developed in China and we want be made available to farmers in Rwanda in order to improve protection of key vegetable crops and increase productivity.¬Ē said Dr Hongmei Li, the project manager from CABI.

This technology is in the form of naturally occurring tiny parasitic worms called entomopathogenic nematodes which selectively kill soil-dwelling insects.

¬ďWe will work with Rwanda¬ís Agricultural Board to survey the current soil pests in Rwanda, develop and pilot a low-cost mass production facility for nematodes using adapted technology from China and increase the capacity of local researchers and technical staff to develop and implement the technology,¬Ē said Dr Li.

The project is supported by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) under the Agricultural Technology Transfer Programme. It is being implemented through the MoA-CABI Joint Laboratory for Biosafety in China with key technical input provided by Guangdong Entomological Institute (GEI) and Institute of Plant Protection of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science (IPP-CAAS).

China has been at the forefront of developing appropriate technology of soil insect pest management aiming to improve crop management system. Similar successful work has been conducted by CABI and GEI in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

As well as developing the pilot technology, the project will work with partners in Rwanda’s agricultural sector including the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI) and the National Agricultural Export Board (NAEB) to develop a strategy for the future expansion of this technology.

A three-day inception workshop was recently held with all major project partners (Rwanda’s Agricultural Board, CABI staff from Africa, China, Switzerland and the UK, the Guangdong Entomological Institute, and Institute of Plant Protection of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science (IPP-CAAS)) as well as other key stakeholders to kick off the project. Here, detailed activities for the project were defined and agreed upon, as were responsibilities and timelines. Monitoring and evaluation activities were also planned, and project management issues addressed. Subsequently, a training course for the Rwandan Agricultural Board was implemented by GEI and CABI on surveying and culturing indigenous beneficial nematodes, while by IPP-CAAS for ran a course on surveying key soil pests. 

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