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African experts meet in Kenya to enhance detection of banana pest

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More than 50 phytosanitary experts from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) region started a five-day meeting in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi on Monday to discuss strategies for enhancing the detection of banana pests.

Convened by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the meeting seeks to raise awareness of early warning, detection and response to the potential detection of Fusarium Oxysporum Cubense Tropical Race 4, a banana pest.

Hamisi Williams, deputy country representative of the FAO in Kenya, said the banana pest has the potential to cause significant economic losses, threaten food security and disrupt local and international trade. “Banana is one of the leading staple foods in some COMESA member countries, and its threat could result in increased food insecurity in a region that is perennially food deficient,” Williams said.

He called for strengthening emergency preparedness capacity in the COMESA region to help prevent and contain the banana pest, emphasizing that a regional approach is key to minimizing the threats posed by the pest.

Paul Rono, principal secretary in Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, said the government has intensified action on banana pests to protect the livelihoods of 200,000 smallholder banana farmers in the country.

The Nairobi meeting is part of the “FAO support to COMESA trade facilitation program” set up to support trade facilitation within the bloc, with delegates expected to develop guidelines on halting the spread of banana pests across the continent.

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