Last week, Laikipia County Government, through the office of the Governor, formed 5 strategic working groups that will help find sustainable solutions towards eradicating, controlling and managing the invasive species, Opuntia Stricta.
Formation of the working groups was pegged to the different mechanisms that are currently being used as solutions to managing the species. This includes both biological and mechanical methods Research, policy and monitoring and evaluation groups were also included as these themes are a significant part in obtaining relevant data and analysis on the invasive species.
The groups have been tasked to work closely as one team, and to ensure that Laikipia County becomes free of the Opuntia stricta and essential ways of managing it.
The Laikipia invasive species symposium was organized by the County Government of Laikipia, in partnership with Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) on the 26th of September 2019.
Participants included NRT, the Regional Centre for Mapping for Resources for Development, Kenya Forestry Research Institute, and Centre for Agriculture Biosciences International.
Mr. John Letai, Director for Environment, Laikipia County, highlighted the efforts that have been made by stakeholders from the County. Laikipia Forum, Northern Rangelands Trust, World Vision and the County are all using different mechanisms to achieve this. The Laikpia Forum is mapping the extent of the Opuntia and acacia reficiens in Laikipia North (including Makurian, Ilngwesi, Lekurruki and Kurukuri) and Samburu (select conservancies).This is being done in partnership with, County, NRT, and RCMRD under the SERVIR programme.
These invasive species are consuming almost 80% of grazing land. They displace and destroy the native grass species.
The Laikipia Chief Officer for Agriculture, Mr. Mungere, while appreciating the initiatives of everyone, added that as a County we must identify a permanent solution to the cactus invasion before it escalates further.
The most effective and cost-effective method, the use of biological control has worked successfully in several countries, including Kenya. The Centre for Agriculture Biosciences International (CABI) representative, Ms. Winnie Nunda, assured participants that biological control is the way to go. She noted that while this method is perceived as slow, it eventually works. Biological control was introduced to Laikipia in 2013 after extensive tests and approvals. Ol Jogi Conservancy, NEMA, the Mpala Research Center, the LWF, and CABI, were all active in this most effective way to control the invasive cactus.