Organic pesticides innovator stuns German President

DAR ES SALAAM: A Tanzania’s female scientist, who is the brainchild behind an organic pesticide under her startup company Plant Biodefenders, has impressed German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, vowing that his country will continue supporting innovation in the country.

Dr Steinmeier made the remarks at the Tanzania’s Hyatt Hotel in Dar es Salaam shortly after he heard a pitch from the female researcher behind the biological pesticide invention, Dr Never Mwambela.

Dr Mwambela who is a lecturer at the College of African Wildlife Management Mweka, briefed the President that the factor behind her discovery was her desire and ambition to use biological methods for containing a pests dubbed Tuta absoluta and fall armyworm without polluting the environment and ensure good health of consumers.

“And now, I’m proud and yet humbled, I’ve successfully found a lasting solution for the invasive pests, with more than 9,000 farmers so far benefitting from it,” Dr Mwambela told the German President.

In his response, Dr Steinmier, who led a high-profile delegation of German business community, commended Dr Mwambela for her breakthrough, committing his country to continue supporting and investing in innovation in Tanzania.

Vuruga Biocide is an organic pesticide Dr Mwambela developed way back in 2019 from natural fungal parasite to control crop pests in the field, especially moth families.

The Vuruga Biocide has been tested in various affected regions of Tanzania since and found to effectively control many pests that are a nuisance to farmers.

The insects include the tuta abosuluta, invasive armyworms, bollworm and caterpillars that destroy cotton, pierce mangoes, avocado, among other fruits, as well as vegetables such as East African spinach (amaranthus or pigweed), nightshade (mnavu), Chinese spinach, and cabbage.

Thanks to the great support from a Germany organisation known as KFW DEG Impulse through DeveloPPP for the organic pesticide to see mass production and distribution to solve challenges of pest resistance as well.

“We’ve suffered for a great deal ever since the pest invaded the crop in 2014,” says Charles Nko, 56, who has been growing tomato for 24 years before he surrendered to the tuta absoluta locally known as Kanitangaze at Engarenanyuki Ward in Arumeru District, Arusha Region.

“Kanitangaze defied all types of insecticides we applied, prompting us to abandon the crop,” says Nko. He, however, says the Vuruga Biocide applied at a number of farms in their area has renewed his hope of growing the crop once again.

With a capital of between 50, 000/- and 80, 000/- he used for buying farming implements and paying labourers, Nko used to harvest 120 crates of tomatoes per acre. A 40-kilogramme crate of tomato fetched him up to 50, 000/-, he recalls.

Upon invasion of the tomato moth, nevertheless, he had to pump in a capital of Sh1.5 million per acre only to harvest barely 50 crates, he says.

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