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Eritrea: Bio-Pesticide Research Shows Promising Results


The Public Relations Division of the Ministry of Agriculture presents a brief interview with Mr. Anday Semere, a member of the National Organic Fertilizers and Bio-pesticides Promotion Committee (NOFBPC), to shed light as to how the committee is contributing to organic farming.

Q: Let’s start with the meaning and importance of bio-pesticides

A: Organic agriculture is a sustainable and environmentally friendly production system. It discourages the use of synthetic animal drugs, fertilizers and pesticides; and it promotes the use of organic pesticides and fertilizers.

Organic agriculture is a production system of healthy and nutritious food. It avoids negative effects of chemical fertilizers and pesticides; and promotes the well-being of humans, plants and animals and build ecological resilience. By using local resources and practices, farmers can reduce dependency on external inputs, and increase savings thereby building self-reliance.

Q: What kind of organic pesticides are used worldwide?

A: Currently organic pesticides used worldwide are microbial and botanical pesticides such as B.T (Bacillus thuringensis) – the most widely used microbial pesticide; Nucleio poly hedral virus (NPV), Metarihizium and others. Among botanical pesticides, Neem based pesticides are mostly used and herbal plants such as garlic, ginger, cinnamon and others are also common.

Q: What is the experience of Eritrean farmers in using bio-pesticides?

A: Eritrean farmers from early days used different pesticides for different purposes. For example, cattle urine and ash were used to dress seeds before planting. Besides different production levels use agrochemicals and other inputs to boost their production. However, many small-scale farmers use cultural practices such as crop rotation, adjusting planting time, inter-cropping, fallowing, exposing pests to sunlight and Neem leaf.

Q: What kind of initiatives are being taken by the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) to promote bio-pesticides?

A: The Ministry of Agriculture experts in general and members of the bio-pesticides promotion technical sub-committee in particular have, so far, produced different bio-pesticide products through different experimental studies. Among the developed products, neem-based pesticide is prepared in different forms i.e., in oil, powder and water extract form. It is effective against various insect pest and disease. Likewise, prosopis leaf extract produced and tested under farmer’s field on potato showed promising result. Other different spices like ginger, garlic, pepper and onion extract have been prepared and tried in different plant insects and disease. Effective results were found against powdery mildew and as insect repelant. Different fruit fly attractants were also developed and guava farmers have been using them as a control option. Currently, their efficacy to replace synthetic pesticides is still under trial.

The sub-committee is also conducting a number of awareness raising activities. Hence, more than 160 zoba experts and around 860 farmers have been trained. Moreover, the national media is playing its pivotal role.

Q: What is the reason behind Neem plant-based pesticide?

The neem tree, Azadirachta indica, a member of the Meliaceae family is a tropical evergreen with a wide adaptability. It is especially suited to semi-arid conditions and thrives even in the poorest soil with rainfalls as little as 450 mm per year and temperatures up to 50° C. It may grow up to 15 meters tall and live for 200 years. Neem is widely used among botanical pesticides worldwide. In Eritrea, the neem tree (Azadiracta indica) mainly grows in low lands of Gash barka, Anseba, Northern & Southern Red-sea regions. The area for neem plantation can be increased to ensure its availability since neem tree grows in semi-arid condition with wide adaptability. On the other hand, neem contains 40 different active compounds called liminoids. The main active ingredient of neem seed is Azadirachtin. It has broad spectrum and can serve as insecticides, fungicides and acaricide. Neem can be prepared in different forms; as leaf and seed kernel powder, oil and leaf water extract. Currently, the bio-pesticide sub-committee is focusing on neem oil since it has a long shelf life from 12 up to 18 months with broad spectrum. In addition, it can be used with the same dilution rate as chemical pesticide. Last but not least, it is environment and user friendly.

Q: How do you evaluate the result?

A: Any new bio-pesticide product has to pass through different experiments before it is distributed to farmers. For instance, Experimental studies on the effect of neem oil formulation and dose rate on potato late blight has been carried out in zoba maekel. The result was evaluated and found effective at 60% neem oil at 5 ml per litre of water. Likewise, neem oil trial against wheat leaf rust was carried out in zoba maekel, Kehawta area. The study showed significant difference among different treatments. However, at higher dose rates, some burning symptoms (phytotoxity) was observed; and therefore 5ml/ litre of water was found to be effective and recommended.