CS Bett and Governor Waititu Visit Acclaimed Plant Quarantine and Biosecurity Station, Muguga

Plant Quarantine and Biosecurity Station, Muguga – Agriculture Cabinet Secretary, Mr. Willy Bett and Kiambu Governor, H. E. Ferdinand Waititu visited the Plant Quarantine and Biosecurity Station (PQBS) at Muguga and saw firsthand the workings of the facility that plays the critical role of preventing the entrance of infected plants and plant materials into the country through its quarantine role.

The PQBS is a state of the art facility, in Muguga, Kiambu County, that has several laboratories which analyze quarantine pests and diseases. The labs include virology, bacteriology, nematology, entomology, mycology, molecular laboratories and tissue culture. The laboratories are ISO/IEC 17025:2005 accredited and equipped with modern equipment. There are also facilities for virus cleaning for vegetatively propagated materials. For instance, all maize imported into the country is tested at the facility for the Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease (MLND). Also all the maize seed produced in the country has to undergo mandatory testing for MLND which has resulted in significant reduction of the disease in the country. The farming community therefore gets clean seed for planting.

KEPHIS MD Dr Esther Kimani demonstrates the workings of some laboratories at the Plant Quarantine and Biosecurity Station at Muguga to the CS Agriculture Mr Willy Bett, Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu and the Parliamentary committee on agriculture when they visited the facility to see firsthand how the lab, among other functions, prevents the entrance of infected plant materials into the country. 

 The laboratory has also been instrumental in the analysis of seed potatoes imported from The Netherlands to ensure that only high quality disease free seeds potatoes are imported to ensure we protect our potato industry. KEPHIS and stakeholders in the potato sub-sector are promoting the consumption of potato which is our second staple crop after maize. 

 In 2009, the PQBS was designated as the regional reference laboratory for COMESA for matters plant health. The COMESA region, which comprises 22 countries, established three regional reference Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) laboratories for food safety, animal health and plant health to assist in harmonization of SPS issues in the region. The lab is intended to coordinate validating and standardizing diagnostic procedures, assist in carrying out risk analyses, offer training to national and satellite laboratories and serve as a centre of excellence for SPS technical matters.

 Sweetpotato production and processing is on the rise in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. This growth is primarily driven by increasing awareness about the benefits of sweetpotato, in particular the vitamin A rich orange-fleshed varieties. However, increased production requires timely access to increased quantities of disease-free planting material. KEPHIS, through the laboratory, provides disease-free starter material to the national programmes in more than 10 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.  KEPHIS in collaboration with CIP under SASHA II Project is currently producing clean pre-basic sweetpotato planting materials to multipliers for subsequent sale to root producers.  Through collaboration with CIP, KEPHIS has continued to impact Women and Youth on investment in the sweetpotato business. Of note is the Social Economic Empowerment Women Organisation (SEEWO) in Kericho and other women in Western and Nyanza counties. 

CS Bett and Governor Waititu were accompanied by Kiambu Deputy Governor Mr James Nyoro, KEPHIS Board of Directors, Kikuyu MP Hon. Kimani Ichung’wa, as well as area MCAs. 

 The laboratory works with collaborators such as The International Potato Centre for sweet and Irish potato, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture for Cassava, Pyrethrum Processing Company, Tea Research Foundation and the Coffee Research Foundation. The facility has been used to serve the East and Central African region with distribution of clean germplasm materials.

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