The long-meandering road to Kerio Valley from Iten town offers a breath-taking scenery which wows even the less adventurous.
Our destination is Francis Kiplagat’s 50-acre mango farm in Kabarak. Hundreds of bushy mango trees stretching yonder welcome us.
The 68-year-old, just like many other farmers across the valley, is expecting a bumper harvest for the first time in many years.
The farmer has been battling fruit flies for years and it is only recently that he overcame them. The pests dig into the mango fruit and when one cuts it, they find a collection of maggots, which spoil the party.
“Some years back, I would walk on the farm and find hundreds of fruits on the ground,” he narrates.
His turnaround came two years ago when he attended a workshop in Eldoret organised by Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (Kephis).
He realised many farmers shared his predicament. Alfred Musuyu, Kephis Kitale region manager, says they had to find a way to help farmers.
Kephis, jointly with United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (Unido), has for the last few years been working on a project, which involves use of pheromone traps, to eradicate the flies.
Kiplagat grows six varieties of mangoes namely Ngoe, Van Dyke, Kent, Keitm Tommy and Apple to ensure he harvests continuously.
“Mangoes have two peak seasons, October and February. From these trees, I get at least 300 fruits,” says the farmer, who at one time won the presidential soils and water management award after he emerged the best farmer across the country.
CHANGE TRAP AFTER SIX WEEKS
Before he started using the pheromone traps, he says he used to harvest 15-20 fruits per tree per season as most were destroyed by fruit flies.
Kiplagat, a former police officer who started farming in 1980, sells the fruits to middlemen at Sh10 each, but hopes to enter the export market with the help of Unido and Kephis.
The region and Kitui are prone to fruit flies due to the hot climate, which enables mangoes to thrive.
An acre needs one trap for monitoring, and five for management. The more the traps the more effective the control. Farmers in hot environments need to change the trap after every six weeks while for cool environment, two months is okay.
“Fruit flies can destroy up to 100 per cent of the crop depending on the management, if there is no management, the harvest can be zero,” says Jane Boit, Kephis officer-in-charge of Eldoret.
She says the pheromone trap that goes for Sh350 in agrovets contains a piece of cotton wool laced with chemicals with a female fruit fly-like smell. The scent attracts male flies that are trapped in a container.
DOES NOT USE CHEMICALS
Farmers can also use the trap to eliminate pests from melons, guavas, citrus and some wild fruits, which host fruit flies.
The trap, according to her, should be placed two metres above the ground or underneath the canopy or leaf or branch of a plant. But care should be taken so that the holes are not sealed, which may prevent the smell from attracting the insects.
The trap should also not be exposed to sunlight as the pheromones will dry up.
The gadget does not use chemicals, which often results in residue that in turn affect market accessibility. One also needs to adopt an integrated pest management that involves use of good sanitation like supressing weed and burning the fruits when they fall to the ground.
“Female fruit flies lay up to 200 eggs on the mango fruit when it is about to ripen. These eggs hatch into the maggots causing destruction,” says Boit.