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Mango farmers in Zimbabwe tackling invasive fruit flies

Christian Fernsby |
A destructive pest is spreading in southern Africa, damaging the livelihoods of fruit growers.

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Topics: ZIMBABWE   

The invasive fruit fly, Bactrocera dorsalis, is harming the crops of mango farmers from Mutoko, Zimbabwe.

Every harvest season, Susan Zinoro, a mango farmer from Mutoko, Zimbabwe, has to bury half the mangoes she’s grown that season. These will have already started rotting either on the tree or have fallen to the ground before harvest. This has been happening for the last seven years, when she first began to notice that more and more fruit would rot and litter the ground.

Zinoro has earned an average $400 per season from selling mangoes over the last five years. This is a shift from many years ago, when she would earn more than $1,000 a season.

The invasive fruit fly, Bactrocera dorsalis, is so small it’s often mistaken for a mosquito. It has become is a serious problem for mango farmers as it can cause total fruit loss, the ruin livelihoods and export prospects for the tropical fruit, says Shepard Ndlela, an entomologist with the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), based in Nairobi, Kenya.

“In Mutoko [Zimbabwe] only, about 55 percent of households produce and sell mangoes together with other fruits such as bananas, guava and citrus,” Ndlela tells IPS, adding that, “They call mango “the golden fruit” thus depicting the true value of the fruit for food, nutrition and source of income.”

As reported on¸ scientists from ICIPE imported parasitoids for the fruit fly from Hawaii in 2006 for multiplication. Parasitoids are small insects that are natural enemies of the fruit fly, which lay their eggs in the body of the insect pest, eventually killing it. Since then, parasitoids have been multiplied in Kenya and have been distributed in Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

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