A researcher has developed a bio-pesticide that can help the country reduce post-harvest losses of maize and other grains.
Donatus Njoroge, an industrial chemist working at Mt Kenya University has developed Molepse bio-resource oil/powder that has been proven to have the ability to protect all types of grains from weevil attacks.
The pesticide, available in liquid and powder forms, was last week selected among top innovations developed by participants during the inaugural East Africa Post-Harvest Technologies Competition.
The competition was aimed at developing solutions that address post-harvest losses, one of the leading causes of food insecurity in the country.
Njoroge told Seeds of Gold that he developed the plant-derived pesticide from essential oils extracted from different weeds, which he analysed and mixed up in the right proportions to create the weevil repellent and fumigant.
“I researched and found that compounds found in different varieties of locally growing weeds can make good pesticides. That is after their fresh leaves are dried, mixed and ground to extract their essential oils which intoxicate and repel major insect pests. Milled dry leaves of the weeds also provide effective pesticides,” said Njoroge, noting the product took him four years to develop.
The organic chemical has been tested by maize and beans farmers in Murang’a and found to be effective in controlling weevils.
“Using the pesticide, the farmers were able to store maize for six months, which is enough period to store grains until the next season.” He noted that there are different types of weevils, with every grain having a specific weevil that attacks it, the reason why some synthetic pesticides produced to deal with specific pest fail to be effective.
The bio-product is applicable on all types of grains, and Njoroge promises to make it retail at affordable prices to reach the small farmers.
“It has no chemical additives, which of course plays a major role in reducing its production costs and thereby making it affordable to poor farmers. It is eco-friendly and safe,” he said.
East Africa Postharvest Technologies Handbook that profiled the competition’s top 25 innovators’ says the effectiveness of the oil starts immediately with mortality being noticeable within five minutes while repellency is immediate.
Njoroge says farmers must completely dry their grains before applying the pesticide. They should further store the grains on raised, aerated granaries to protect them from aflatoxins. “I shall use the Sh1 million cash prize I won at the competition to get relevant authorisations. However, my plan is to increase its production to make it available for farmers in all agrochemical shops the soonest,” he said.
The competition was organised by the Inter Region Economic Network (IREN), through a grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) East Africa Trade and Investment Hub in partnership with Sygenta.
“These young innovators hold the solution to Africa’s greatest challenges. USAID is proud to support a platform that celebrates and promotes their ingenuity,” Said Karen Freeman, USAID Mission director for Kenya and East Africa.
James Shwikwati, the CEO, IREN, said East Africa Post-harvest Technologies Fair is a great platform to showcase talent and innovations towards resolving food loss and is an additional tool to addressing perennial food security challenges in the region.