Reducing the losses from crop pests will help to increase food availability and boost economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). However, the existing crop protection paradigm that relies on synthetic agrochemical pesticides has had only a marginal impact on the productivity of many poor smallholder farmers who constitute a major segment of agriculture in SSA. This is primarily because many of them are not able to afford or access these imported chemicals. A solution to this crop protection problem may be to harness biological resources that are locally available, such as endemic insect natural enemies and indigenous pesticidal plant materials. Two specific examples of this already under development in Africa are the use of the pesticidal plant, Tephrosia vogelii , and the harvesting of the endemic insect baculovirus, Spodoptera exempta nucleopolyhedrovirus (SpexNPV). Both of these can be produced locally and have shown promise in trials as inexpensive and effective tools for pest control in Africa and their use is currently being scaled up and evaluated by African networks of researchers. A focus on these systems illustrates the potential for using locally-available natural resources for improved crop protection in Africa. The consideration of these pesticidal plants and insect natural enemies in the wider context of natural capital that provide valuable ecosystem services (including pest control), will facilitate greater recognition of their true economic and societal worth. While both of these model systems show promise, there are also very significant challenges to be overcome in developing production, supply and marketing systems that are economically viable and sustainable. The regulatory environment must also evolve to accommodate and facilitate the registration of new products and the establishment of appropriate supply chains that share the benefits of these resources equitably with the local communities from which they are harvested.
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