Apple snail

Highly invasive apple snail pest cuts farmers’ yield by 14 per cent and income by 60 per cent

Apple snail, a highly invasive pest which was first reported in 2020 in Kenya at Mwea Irrigation Settlement Scheme (MIS) has increasingly become a matter of concern cutting farmers’ yields by 14 per cent and yields by 60 per cent.

Since its discovery, it has proliferated across more than 90 percent of MIS and neighboring rice out-grower farms. This expansion has been enabled by farmers sharing of farming equipment, water distribution channels, and flooding practices.

According to the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI), an adult apple snail can destroy a square meter of rice in one night. 

The arrival of apple snail in MIS, a major rice growing area in Kenya, is of immense concern. The history of apple snail invasion in Asian agricultural systems demonstrates the snail’s huge impacts where these systems have been rapidly overwhelmed.

In addition to the damage done to agriculture, the snail could also push already fragile ecosystems into irreversible decline as it has done in Southeast Asia. 

The snail’s infestation in Mwea

The apple snail infestation in Mwea is still relatively localized. However urgent action to promote pro-active prevention, containment and control is required if apple snail spread is to be effectively mitigated. 

The majority of farmers in Mwea are aware of the presence of apple snail on their land. Significant impacts are being experienced by farmers with at least a moderate apple snail infestation (i.e. more than 20% of their cultivated area affected), who experienced approximately 14% and 60% reductions in rice yield and net rice income, respectively compared to farmers not yet experiencing apple snail invasion.

This implies that the negative economic effect of apple snail is substantial when more than 20% of the area cultivated to rice by a household is affected by the pest. Thus, it is essential to promote strategies to limit the spread of apple snail. 

Containment and eradication costs

In Malaysia, continuous control, containment and eradication programs for apple snail have occurred with success, albeit at greater crop production costs.

Hired labor for physical/mechanical control, and to some extent water management (e.g. draining fields and/or spraying water), account for a high proportion of total apple snail management costs (70% and 20% respectively). 

These labor costs result in rice production becoming very expensive, whilst also not considering the cost of family labor which is likely to be significant as farmers struggle to manage this new invasive pest. 

It is highly feasible that apple snail management will have significant livelihood impacts for smallholders, particularly women and children, who will probably spend significant amounts of time in the physical removal of snails and eggs. 

Typically, as part of their routine management responsibilities, women spend more time in the field scouting for pests.

It has been recognized in Ahero irrigation scheme that Kenyan women undertake 80% of the work associated with rice production, such as preparing land for planting and weeding.

It is therefore essential that effective strategies are implemented to contain the spread of apple snail, especially since, in a relatively short period of time, damage can become significant.

Facebook Comments Box
Source:Zablon Oyugi