A new project that will upscale highly successful fruit fly management technologies developed by the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (Icipe), to Southern Africa, has been launched.
Funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), through Cultivate Africa’s Future Fund (CultiAF), the project will be implemented in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The project titled: “Enhanced Fruit Production in Southern Africa (EFPSA) for gender equality and social inclusion”, will be led by Icipe.
Partners include: Zambia Agriculture Research Institute, ZARI; Department of Agricultural Research Services, Bvumbwe Research Station, here in Malawi; Eduardo Mondlane University, Mozambique and the Ministry of Agriculture, Plant Quarantine Services Institute, Zimbabwe.
“Initially, EFPSA will focus on controlling fruit flies in mango, based on the importance of this crop in the continent,” said Samira Abuelgasim Mohamed, Icipe scientist and project leader.
“Mango production significantly boosts household nutrition and income, and is especially vital in opening up opportunities for women and youth. In addition, mango is a major foreign income earner, with produce from Africa constituting half of the 500 million tonnes of the fruit that is exported globally, annually.”
Icipe said in Southern Africa, as is the case across the continent, the production and export of mangoes is way below potential. This is mainly due to fruit flies, which not only increase production costs, but also radically reduce the quality and quantity of marketable mangoes.
“Fruit flies destroy fruits by laying their eggs into them. These eggs then hatch into maggots that feed on the decaying flesh. Infested fruits quickly become rotten and inedible, eventually dropping to the ground; a complete waste. As a result, fruit flies cost Africa $2 billion dollars every year,” through direct fruit losses, costs related to management of the pests as well as lack of access to lucrative export markets,” explains Sunday Ekesi, Director of Research and Partnerships, in a statement Icipe issued on Monday.
For some years, African mango growers, alongside other fruit producers, have faced the challenge of African fruit flies. The situation worsened in 2003, with the arrival in Africa, of an invasive and highly destructive fruit fly known scientifically as Bactrocera dorsalis.
The pest, according to scientists, has quarantine status, meaning that even the presence of one single fly leads to the rejection of an entire consignment in international markets.
But Icipe and partners have developed an array of environmentally friendly approaches to manage fruit flies.
Sandra Gagnon, senior programme officer at IDRC said “the organisation is pleased to support the initiative.
“[It] enables us to extend our partnership with the centre, while also reinforcing our long history of supporting research in Africa,” she said.