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Tephrosia leaf offers low-cost tick protection

Tephrosia has traditionally been used by pastoralists in Kenya to rid livestock of ticks (© WRENmedia)
Tephrosia has traditionally been used by pastoralists in Kenya to rid livestock of ticks
© WRENmedia

Tephrosia vogelii, a plant which grows wild in much of sub-Saharan Africa, has traditionally been used by Samburu and Maasai pastoralists in Kenya to rid their livestock of ticks. Now, with backing from the botany department of the Kenya Museum among others, use of Tephrosia leaf extract as a low-cost acaricide is spreading to farmers in central Kenya, with impressive results.

The efficacy of Tephrosia has already been demonstrated in Zimbabwe. Researchers from Bindura University of Science Education, investigating its use among smallscale dairy herds in Mashonaland Central Province, reported striking similarities between Tephrosia extract and Triatix dip, the most commonly used conventional acaricide. Their research revealed "no significant difference between T. vogelii and the conventional Triatix dip at 5% level," and the team went on to recommend use of Tephrosia to smallholder dairy farmers in areas where modern veterinary drugs are not easily accessible.

Application simple and cheap

The Kenya Institute of Organic Farming (KIOF) has been actively involved in promoting the organic tick control, raising awareness through simple demonstrations. Samuel Koputa, centre manager for KIOF, explains the process: "We apply Tephrosia on the animal and then after a week we call the farmers again to see the results. We are also providing farmers with the liquid so that they can use it in their farms for further experiment. We have very positive results and that information is also with our farmers," he adds.

Farmers in Kenya are now grinding Tephrosia leaves to treat their animals (© ILRI)
Farmers in Kenya are now grinding Tephrosia leaves to treat their animals
© ILRI

Around 300 farmers in the central Kenya region are now grinding the leaves of the plant to extract juice to treat their animals. The green liquid is mixed with water, and this is applied to the animal's skin with a sponge or a piece of cloth. Adding a little soap to the liquid makes it stick to the skin for longer. According to Dr Hannington Waweru of the Kenya Museum, the organic acaricide is only effective against immature ticks that still have a soft skin. "This however is a huge leap in the fight against ticks because it slows their reproductive cycle," he says.

Susanna Kinya, who has adopted the organic acaricide, has now planted the shrub on her one acre plot. A year ago she lost two heifers to tick-borne diseases, despite spending a large part of her small income on acaricides. She now applies the Tephrosia extract on a weekly basis to her one remaining cow, which is vital to her survival and that of her two children. "I go for casual jobs, which are not always available," she says. "My only guaranteed source of income is the sale of milk from my cow. I already lost two heifers. So every day my surviving cow is always in my mind, but the herbal plant has given my heart rest." She's also happy to see her cow giving good amounts of milk, and to be making use of the manure in her farm.

Multiple benefits

The affordability of Tephrosia makes it attractive to smallscale livestock farmers (© FAO/Ado Youssouf)
The affordability of Tephrosia makes it attractive to smallscale livestock farmers
© FAO/Ado Youssouf

The affordability of Tephrosia makes it very attractive to smallscale livestock farmers. While 250ml of conventional acaricide costs US$3, a kilo of Tephrosia vogelii seeds retails at around $0.20, and is readily available at the offices of the Kenya Organic Agricultural Network and KIOF. The plant takes three months to mature and, as a nitrogen-fixing plant, can be intercropped as a source of green manure. It can also be used as a shade or boundary crop, although its use as a fish poison has caused the Kenyan authorities to ban its cultivation near large water bodies. However, research by the World Agroforestry Centre has shown that while the roots of Tephrosia are highly poisonous to mammals, to the extent of potentially eradicating moles from cultivated areas, its leaves are not harmful to mammals or birds.

Backing for the use of Tephrosia has even come from the Kenyan government, as a way of reducing the use of chemical pesticides. "I am hugely excited by the overwhelming uptake of the plant by farmers in these regions and hope that the uptake will be reverberated across the country," said Dr Romano Kiome the Permanent Secretary in Kenya's Ministry of Agriculture.

By Bob Koigi

Date published: November 2011

 

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Excellent Information. please mail me such articles it will ... (posted by: Dr Suryakant Bansude)

 

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