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.
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.
The project's primary objective is to have the bio-herbicide reach Small Holder Farmers (SHF) on a large scale. The team pursued this goal by conducting experiments in three key areas:
- Training Farm to Market Alliance (FTMA) and Farmers Service Centres (FSC's) on the production of bio-herbicides.
- Distributing the bio-herbicides effectively.
- Implementing strategic communication and marketing tactics targeting farmers. Through meticulous testing, the project aimed to determine the most cost-effective approaches in these three domains, ultimately enabling the team to establish a scalable business and operational model.
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.
- WFP tested production training, distribution and marketing of Kichawi Kill across over 1000 farms in 7 counties in Kenya.
- The farms demonstrated an increased yield from 1-3 (50 kg) maize bags per acre to 7-9 (50 kg) maize bags per acre.
- Trained 135 FTMA Kenya’s Farmer Service Centres (FSCs) on how to produce the bio-herbicide.
The team is currently conducting trials for an enhanced version of their solution, which involves a direct coating on the seeds. This innovation offers multiple benefits, including an extended shelf-life, reduced production time, and elimination of the need for farmers to apply herbicide separately after seed planting. By coating the seeds with bio-herbicide, farmers can save valuable time and effort, streamlining their operations for optimal efficiency.