The dairy industry represents one of the most important income-generating activities for resource poor smallholder farmers in East Africa. In Kenya alone, an estimated 600,000 farmers produce 80% of the milk consumed in the country. Napier grass (Pennisetum purpureum) is the most important livestock feed in these systems, and is also an important plant for soil management and widely used for agro-ecological management of stemborers and Striga on cereal crops.
Recently, a new stunting disease of Napier grass has emerged, devastating Napier grass yield by 70 percent and contributing to a significant decline in milk production. There is potential risk for the disease spreading to food crops and posing a serious threat to food security. While initial research has helped to identify and study the disease vector (the leafhopper), effective management strategies for the disease are limited. Building on vector knowledge, the project seeks to develop and implement an integrated management approach for the disease to be implemented in Western Kenya, Eastern Uganda and Northern Tanzania.
Focusing on stakeholders in the dairy value chain in target areas, the project will focus on building the capacity on disease diagnosis and management, and animal husbandry with the aim of stabilizing dairy and cereal production, increasing milk / cereal yields and income, and improving nutrition and livelihoods in the eastern Africa region.