Project overview

Using a live active inoculum from a fungal-coated toothpick, Toothpick arms smallholder farmers with bio-herbicide technology to help them kill striga, an increasingly destructive parasitic weed that attacks the roots of staple crops in sub-Saharan Africa.

Farmers working in the field. Photo: WFP/Claire Baker and Dorcas Kemboi

The problem

Striga (witchweed) is considered the worst pest threat in African food security. Striga is an increasingly destructive parasitic weed on 40 million farms across sub-Saharan Africa. Attacking the roots of staple crops (maize, sorghum, millet, cowpea, dryland rice, etc.), it depletes farmers' yield by 20 to 100 percent on 50 million hectares of croplands in Africa. Eighty-five percent of maize smallholder farmers in Kenya are women, making Striga a gender-sensitive food security issue.

Dried up maize field. Photo: WFP/Claire Baker and Dorcas Kemboi

The solution

Toothpick’s bio-herbicide technology kills Striga, thereby increasing crop yield by approximately 42 to 56 percent. Village Inoculum Producers (VIPs) grow a live active inoculum from a fungal-coated toothpick and distribute it to farmers as part of their micro-agribusiness. The product is safe, effective, affordable and environmentally-friendly. Their biocontrol technology is poised to rock the US$ 34 billion herbicide market with one of the first effective, safe, and cost-effective solutions.

Photo: WFP/Claire Baker and Dorcas Kemboi
Photo: WFP/Claire Baker and Dorcas Kemboi
Photo: WFP/Claire Baker and Dorcas Kemboi
The way forward

The team plans to test 1) Village Inoculum Producers's training methods, 2) the distribution methods of Kichawi Kills to farmers, and 3) Kichawi Kill marketing and sales methods. Its aim is to demonstrate reduced yield loss for farmers.

Farmers standing in the middle of a field. Photo: WFP/Claire Baker and Dorcas Kemboi

Last updated: 25/10/2022