Kenya is losing nearly Sh20 billion annually due to tsetse fly infestation. At least 138,000 square kilometre of land which includes 38 out of 47 counties are infested by the deadly fly.
However, in the coast region the situation is worse as Kilifi, Mombasa, Tana River, Kwale, Lamu and Taita Taveta counties are highly infested by the deadly insect. Experts have raised a red flag saying the continuous spread of the insect is heavily weighing down on the economic prosperity.
The insect is adversely affecting agriculture, public health and tourism, the main economic activity in the coast region.
Tsetse fly spreads Nagana in animals and sleeping sickness to humans. According to Kenya Tsetse and Trypanosomiasis Eradication Council (KENTTEC), at least 11million people in Kenya are at a high risk of contracting sleeping sickness.
KENTTEC Coast Regional Coordinator Moses Cheruiyot said the economic loss due to tsetse fly was affecting the economy as the country was forced to use billions of shillings to import drugs and pesticides.
“Tsetse flies spread diseases that kill animals and human beings. Nagana causes abortion and a drop in milk production in lactating animals,” said Mr Cheruiyot.
He was speaking in Mombasa recently during the Kenya Science Journalist congress which was attended by more than 100 science journalists and experts from Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Malawi.
The congress which was held between Nov 18- 20 and was organised by the Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture.
Mr Cheruiyot said most coast residents were unable to access grazing fields due to tsetse fly infestation. He said that this has led to increased poverty levels.
“The farmers are selling their animals at low prices. They cannot export their products,” said Mr Cheruiyot.
He said the government in collaboration with partners such as International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology and Food Agriculture Organization have designed a road map to mitigate against the spread of diseases caused by tsetse fly in coast region.
“The government is giving the farmers technical support. It is sensitising farmers and helping them spray their animals with correct pesticides among other measures,” said Mr Cheruiyot.