Farmer Alfred Bolo, from Kwale County, holding a papaya, from his papaya farm.
Alfred Bolo in his papaya farm located in Kwale County. Image credit, D. Onyango (CABI)

Meet Alfred Bolo, a pawpaw farmer

Alfred is a father of two children, an agricultural officer by profession and a practising farmer in Kwale County, Kenya. He grows over 400 pawpaw (papaya) trees on his farm. Every week, Alfred harvests up to 400 kgs of papaw fruit, earning him an income of approximately Ksh. 22,000 (USD 170; GBP 133) per week.

His biggest market is the chain of local holiday resorts and hotels. Alfred also supplies to a network of 10 aggregators, mainly made up of women who own stalls in the booming fruit market in Kenya’s second-largest city, Mombasa.

“My papaya is very popular because I do not use pesticides, making it safer for my consumers; plus, the variety I grow is very sweet, making it popular with my customers”, said Alfred.

From his proceeds, Alfred has been able to supplement his income to pay for his children’s fees and meet some of the household utility expenses. The surplus is being invested in an upcoming cage fish farming venture in Kisumu County.

Protecting Alfred’s pawpaw from papaya mealybug

His farm has his homestead in one corner, with rows of papaya trees lining the path into his compound. Hidden towards one edge of the farm, under the pawpaw trees, is a Natural Enemies Field Reservoir (NEFR).

This is where Alfred has successfully reared a tiny wasp (Acerophagus papayae) that has proved its effectiveness in managing the invasive papaya mealybug. These parasitic wasps—natural enemies of the papaya mealybug—feed on the pest, killing it. 

While giving a tour of his farm, Alfred recalled his farming journey, “The papaya mealybug was a big hindrance when I started planting my fruits, affecting my harvests and ultimately killing my trees.

A close up shot, which shows a symptom of the presense of Papaya mealybug.
Inspecting a papaya leaf for symptoms of papaya mealybug. Image credit, D. Onyango (CABI)

Approximately 8 months ago, I underwent training on how to set up my NEFR structure, and I can attest to its effectiveness in managing this pest. I have seen the pest populations reduce significantly and I have benefited from huge cost savings that would have been brought by using additional inputs like pesticides.

These wasps are now my army of soldiers fighting to protect my pawpaw.”

Rows of papaya trees that are bearing fruit on Alfred's farm in Kwale County, Kenya
Papaya trees bearing fruit on Alfred’s farm. Image credit, D. Onyango (CABI)

Sustainable pest management

Alfred is one of the many farmers benefiting from the use of biological control methods to manage the papaya mealybug (Paracoccus marginatus) in East Africa.

Under this initiative, CABI is working with the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS), The National Museums of Kenya (NMK), The National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) and The University of Juba (UoJ) with the support of Darwin Initiative to provide solutions for sustainable management of papaya mealybug in Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda through the release of A. papayae as part of Integrated Pest Management.

This includes increasing awareness and strengthening the capacity of farmers, extension officers, researchers, input suppliers and policymakers to manage the pest.

This partnership is also training and helping more farmers like Alfred to establish NEFRs in their fields. The NEFRs act as a natural home for A.papayae within farmers’ fields and help conserve the parasitoids in communities beyond the project timeline.

Find out more about this project: Biocontrol of papaya mealybug in East Africa

Related links:

Scaling up the fight against papaya mealybug pest in South Sudan

How a tiny wasp can save the livelihoods of papaya farmers

CABI searches for biological control to halt surge of papaya mealybug menace in Kenya

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