Kenya’s food system is at risk, says Greenpeace

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A report by the Auditor General has revealed that the Kenya Seed Company stocked different varieties of maize infected with the Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease amounting to losses of about 218 Million shillings.

According to a report by a local daily,the report by Auditor-General showed that Kenya Seed Company (KSC) made provision of Sh250,177,000 for obsolete stocks in the statement of profit and loss and other comprehensive income.

“Examination of records made available for audit revealed that varieties of raw maize worth Sh217,848,520 was infected with MLND and slow germination as reported by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis),” the report dated June 17, 2019 was quoted by the local news outlet.

Responding to this news, Greenpeace Africa’s Food for Life Campaigner Claire Nasike has said that it is such a shame that the Kenya Seed Company trusted with producing top quality seeds stocked infected maize seeds.

“This action by a state corporation, that is primarily responsible for supporting the country to achieve food security, reveals that the country’s food system is at risk,” Ms Nasike said.
Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease (MLND), is a viral infection that gives rise to secondary fungal infections in the ears or grains, leading to the loss of yields. Maize is an important component of Kenyans’ diets. Losing maize to the virus leaves many Kenyans vulnerable to hunger.

“The action by the Kenya Seed Company directly undermines President Kenyatta’s recent remarks at the Mombasa agricultural show that the national government has allocated 48.5 billion Kenya shillings to enhance agricultural production through irrigation to ensure that no Kenyan suffers from lack of food”, Claire Nasike added.

According to Food and Agriculture Organisation, (FAO)The Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease (MLND) is a result of a combination of two viruses, the Maize Chlorotic Mottle Virus (MCMoV) and any of the cereal viruses in the Potyviridae group, like the Sugarcane Mosaic Virus (SCMV), Wheat Streak Mosaic Virus (WSMV) or Maize Dwarf Mosaic Virus (MDMV). The double infection of the two viruses gives rise to what is known as MLND, also referred to as Corn Lethal Necrosis (CLN).

MLND is mainly spread by a vector, transmitting the disease from plant to plant and field to field. The most common vectors are maize thrips, rootworms and leaf beetles. Hot spots appear to be places where maize is being grown continuously.

Is it harmful to humans and animals?

MLND gives rise to secondary fungal infections in the ears or grains. It is therefore not allowed for humans or animals to eat these once infected. The plants should be removed immediately from the fields and infected ears and grains should be burnt. The leaves can still be fed to livestock. In Africa, the disease was first reported in Kenya,(South Rift Valley – Bomet and Naivasha districts) in September 2011 although its extent at that point suggested that the disease has been present for some time. According to the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture, two percent of the maize harvest was affected in 2012. MLND has also spread rapidly into Tanzania, Uganda and South Sudan in the meantime (see map).

FAO MLND spread in Kenya, Uganda Tanzania

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Yvonne Kawira is an award winning journalist with an interest in matters, regional trade, tourism, entrepreneurship and aviation. She has been practicing for six years and has a degree in mass communication from St Paul’s University.

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