Komesha Fruit Fly Campaign: An Innovative Partnership to Increase Consumption of Mangoes in Kenya

Amos Kisilu — Former Associate
ripe yellow mangoes on a long table
Photo courtesy of the Kenya Crops and Dairy Market Systems Activity (KCDMS) of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

In January, The Rockefeller Foundation’s Food Initiative launched the Komesha Fruit Fly Campaign, a partnership with the Government of Kenya, USAID, Research Triangle Institute and others to support fruit fly control and create pest-free areas to reduce post-harvest losses in mangos. “Komesha” is a Swahili word for stop or destroy.

Agriculture is an important subsector for the Kenyan economy. Horticulture contributes to 33 percent of the agricultural GDP and 38 percent of export earnings. The domestic value of horticulture production is over 216 billion Kenya shillings with fruits alone contributing KES 57.5 billion or 26.5 percent of the total value in 2016. Mango production is ranked second after bananas. And yet, despite the tremendous growth and potential of the agricultural sector, mangos and other fruits are often damaged by fruit fly infestations. Fruit flies cause 40 to 80 percent of the fruit damage in Kenya, leading to a high cost of production, poor quality fruit, high post-harvest losses and loss of market value.

The Komesha Fruit Fly campaign has the potential to open premium markets, increase the livelihood of farmers, reduce food loss and waste, and increase consumption of mangos.

The Komesha Fruit Fly campaign aims to increase farmers’ awareness and knowledge on methods of reducing post-harvest losses in mangos. Starting in Makueni, Machakos, and Kitui Counties, farmers and other stakeholders will be able to adopt proven fruit fly post-harvest treatment technologies and establish fruit fly free mango orchard zones. Specific sustainable and integrated fruit fly management interventions include the use of fruit fly traps, hot water treatment of fruits, and adherence to the new mango certification protocol. Following similar, successful interventions in Egypt, this campaign has the potential to open premium markets, increase the livelihood of farmers, reduce food loss and waste, and increase consumption of mangos, which are high in nutrients.

Food loss and waste are estimated to cost the global economy up to $940 billion per year, with both producers and consumers losing money on a daily basis. In the past four years, The Rockefeller Foundation, through the YieldWise Initiative, has made investments to reduce post-harvest losses of Kenyan with a particular focus on protective foods like mangos which is associated with positive health outcomes.

Transforming the mango sector will require a systems approach – it is not only about the fruit fly, but all the interconnected components required, such as market access, affordable financing, rural road infrastructure, consumer demand, integrated pest management, agro-processing. We applaud the Government of Kenya’s leadership for recognizing the importance of this partnership. Working together with a wide range of partners – from farmers to government officials – we can Komesha the fruit fly.

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