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    By Eric Kimunguyi

    There is a device being used rather often lately by our most vocal lobbyists as they chase new regulation or the overturning of old rules: ‘Europe’ has banned it, or done it, or changed it, they are telling us, as a reason to reshape our own policies.

    However, the problem with this form of case building, just as when our children tell us their friend’s parents allow it or have bought it, is that the comparison comes without circumstantial detail, and with the possibility of being untrue in the way it is presented, or, at the very least, of being irrelevant to our own circumstances.

    Indeed, few things are more illustrative of those pitfalls than the oft-cited banning of pesticides by Europe. In the ‘one-story-fits-all’ line of case-building, we are told that Europe has banned a mass of pesticides because they are giving humans cancer and reproductive problems. This is painful for experts to witness. For, in our era of short-form information, few non-experts will go and find out the actual truth of what Europe has banned, or why, and what the consequences are. Yet, without that knowledge, we stand in danger of being badly manipulated.

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    A perfect example is a group of pesticides called neonicotinoids, which are now banned in Europe for outdoor uses: the first point is that they were banned because of their claimed impact on bees, not humans.

    For, over a decade ago, the managers of large bee colonies in the US and Europe began reporting bees were simply disappearing.  That is worrying for everyone, because bees are key pollinators for many fruits and foods, estimated at around $20bn worth of crops worldwide.

    Green lobbyists immediately leapt to the podium calling out pesticides as the cause. There was no scientific evidence that they were, but political pressure anyway began building to ban the class of pesticides called neonicotinoids as harmful to bees – and Europe did.

    The US did not, with its Environmental Protection Agency stating there was no scientific evidence to support such a ban. But Europe has moved on a number of issues in recent years without the same need for scientific evidence that the US EPA applies.

    However, it turned out it wasn’t pesticides that were emptying the world’s bee hives, but a tiny parasite, the Varroa Destructor mite, which had swept through the European honey bees cultivated in Europe and in the USA, eating bees’ live tissue and infecting them with 13 different viruses, one of which, in particular, saw their wings malform, and made them unable to navigate back to their hives.

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    Information on the bee disease is still growing, but in January, the US National Institutes of Health announced a breakthrough in engineering a bacteria that could protect the bees from it by triggering an immune reaction to this Deformed Wing Virus (DWV). For it is this secondary virus causing the harm, rather than the bees losing a small amount of tissue to the mite – just as malaria catches us as humans, not the tissue we lose to a bite by a mosquito.

    Now these are facts, and vital ones, as the world chases a solution to this bee disease.

    For in the two years since the EU’s neonicotinoids ban, the Varroa mite has continued infecting Europe’s bees and, with its bee numbers falling faster than ever, it has announced a raft of special assistance for its bee industry in the 2020 agricultural programme. But it also has a new problem in huge, extra crop losses previously prevented by the neonicotinoids. As a result, France this month announced an exception to the neonicotinoids ban for its sugar beet producers, who the Agriculture Minister said, are facing ‘an unprecedented crisis’ as a result of ending their crop protection.

    Indeed, the French announcement follows so many ‘derogations’ by member states on this particular ban – which is where they ask to be allowed to set aside a law – that it has become a controversy in its own right in the EU how many ‘derogations’ can be allowed on any ban.

    And that is how information starts to look, once the full context is given.

    For campaigners who comment on how it is a disgrace we have crop protection in Kenya that is banned in Europe, mean, among other things: we should adopt a ban that there is, definitively, no scientific evidence for, that the US has rejected, that the EU states are resisting and overturning, and which is generating huge crop losses, just because that’s the path the EU took to address the devastation that is actually being caused, primarily, by the Varroa mite.

    Of course, it looks a bit different put that way – as ‘disgraceful Kenyan regulations and regulators’ go. Actually, what it looks like, which is the reality, is that our regulators, just like the EPA, are taking a lot of flak, but doing just one thing – sticking with the facts. They aren’t trying to poison Kenyans, and they are keeping a very, very close eye on bees too.

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    By George Munene

    Contagious Caprine Pleuropneumonia (CCPP), a highly infectious disease of the respiratory tract, is the deadliest goat disease in arid and semi-arid regions, costing pastoralists millions of shillings over years and affecting goats throughout Kenya.

    The annual costs of CCP in the arid regions is extremely high, with most goats in Kenya in the hands of pastoralists. One study of the economic impact of CCPP on a monitored herd of 100 goats in Turkana County counted the losses as Sh219,132 in just that one herd in a year. (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/tbed.13317)

    With a mortality of 94 per cent if left untreated, medical treatment of the disease is available. But even after treatment, at least half of goats still succumb to it, said Fulgence Mwarongo, the Voi sub county veterinary officer. Moreover, its complete elimination from a herd is difficult and treated animals can still be potential carriers of the disease.

    Vaccinating goats at least once every year is the only sure way to protect them from CCPP, he said.

    Although goats are its primary host, on rare occasion it also affects sheep, in flocks and herds where they are mixed in with goats. However, CCPP cannot be transmitted to human beings.

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    It is transmitted by the Mycoplasma F38 and Mycoplasma mycoides capri bacteria.

    Mcharo Mbogho a galla goat farmer in Taita Taveta has borne its effects first-hand having lost close to 200 goats to the disease in 2017 when his herd came into contact with a neighbour’s infected goats. The disease causes death within one to three weeks after infection, but can be prevented.

    Symptoms

    • Breathing difficulties/ choked breathing
    • Weakness and lethargy
    • Coughing
    • Foamy discharge from the nose
    • Loss of appetite, goats will not even drink water
    • Long stringy saliva
    • Lungs become edematous (swollen)

    Prevention

    • Bi annual vaccinations against CCPP
    • Quarantining infected animals
    • Incubate new goats for at least six to ten days and vaccinate them before introducing them to your herd
    • If you are able, fence off your grazing area to avoid your goats coming into contact with others
    • Slaughter infected or exposed animals
    • Have a clean shed and disinfect it regularly
    • Do not overpopulate goats in a small area

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    Treatment

    1. CAPRIVAX TM
    2. A combination of dihydrastreptomycin sulphate (250 mg/ml) and penicillin G procaine (200,000 iu/mI)
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    By George Munene

    The banana plant is a low maintenance hardy herbaceous crop, but the yellow sigatoka is amongst the few diseases that severely effects it. Caused by a fungus, mycosphaerella musicola, it is often characterised by yellow spindle shaped spots on the surface of banana foliage.

    The disease is also referred to as leaf spot, leaf streak, sigatoka disease, sigatoka leaf spot, mycosphaerella leaf spot and mycosphaerella fijiensis.

    Symptoms

    Yellow sigatoka is most prominently characterised by:

    • The earliest symptom are light yellow spots starting with the third and fourth leaves from the top, i.e., the youngest leaves.
    • If unchecked, some of this spots turn dark brown, widen, and become oval shaped.
    • The centre spot where the leaf is most afflicted eventually turns light grey with a ring of brown and withers.
    • At its most severe, many of this spots merge and weather the entire leaf.

    Yellow sigatoka is especially contagious in higher altitude regions over the rainy season and when temperatures are above 21°C

    Effects

    • Decrease in photosynthetic area leading to reduced bunch sizes
    • Shortened green life—period between harvesting and ripening.

    The flesh of fruits from infected plants exhibit a pinkish hue and keep poorly.

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    How to control/ treat yellow sigatoka

    Cultural methods

    • Ensure your farm is properly drained and there is little water logging
    • Removal and control of weeds
    • Deleafing- sanitary removal of entire diseased leaves or parts of them
    • Cutting out diseased suckers
    • Avoid overpopulating your bananas. Use the recommended spacing for planting different banana varieties
    • Cut off and burn old dried infected leaves

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    The conidia/spore of the fungus is passed on by rain water, wind and old dry infected leaves

    Chemical methods

    • Dithane M-45 (in water)
    • Dithane M-45 WP (in an emulsion of oil and water)
    • Foliar spray of Copper Oxychloride (3 g/litre of water)
    • Thiophanate Methyl (1 g/litre of water)

    Alternate chemicals to avoid the disease building up tolerance.

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