01.The establishment of Sokoine University Pest Management Centre (SPMC) is aimed at enhancing capacity in pest research at SUA and in Tanzania in general by creating a coherence of pest research activities relevant to agricultural, veterinary, forest and the health sector in Tanzania. The SPMC collaborates with other researchers in the Faculties of Agriculture, Forestry, Science and Veterinary Medicine at SUA, and many institutions outside SUA including collaborators overseas.
02.The establishment of the Centre, enables SUA to have a more focused approach in pest research activities, strengthen its status as a centre of excellence in training, research, extension, and consultancy.
03.The SPMC is an important organ at SUA, with the mandate to plan, prioritize and carry out basic and applied research on important animal and plant pests. Most of the pest research and development activities are executed by a core of competent scientists and staff in academic Departments at SUA. It also consists of a minimum of core administrative, laboratory and support staff.
Analysis of Pest Problems
Pests are a major concern of the government and this has been addressed in the national policy as addressed in the “Plant and crop protection services policy”. The policy requires a highly organized research and extension service, which to be effective requires both national and international approach. Direct government intervention is required in some activities including research on pests which cause high losses in crops. With reference to research, the policy states that required technology for pest control must come from vigorous, aggressive and problem oriented research programme and must be accomplished through the efforts of dedicated and competent scientific personnel working under a sound, well planned and organized research system. Therefore, the SUA Pest Management Centre is addressing the research aspect of this policy, and the results are disseminated to the extension service for use by stakeholders.
The research is generally problem oriented, addresses capacity building (manpower training, equipment, etc.). Among the pest problems which the SPMC has been very strong to address in research and extension, are rodents. These cause high losses of crops and are involved as reservoirs of zoonotic diseases. Human diseases, particularly plague, cause both morbidity and mortality. Rodents have considerable economic impact and therefore there is need to gain more knowledge on their ecology, taxonomy, distribution and control.
The term "pest" is generally defined as a harmful or hazardous organism. In the biological fields, pests represent animals or plants which destroy, suppress or compete with desired animals or plants in a given environment. Plant pests are generally referred to as weeds. Animal pests which attack crops and pastures can be classified as migratory, e.g. (birds, armyworms, locusts) or semi-migratory/residents (e.g. rodents, vermins, molluscs insects/nymphs and microbial organisms). Rodents and other vermin are also reservoirs and carriers of diseases. Some arthropods and particularly some insect species are important animal parasites and disease vectors.
Hazards brought about by plant and animal pests in agriculture, livestock industry, public health, and the environment are of major economic importance and of worldwide concern. These hazards are particularly felt in the developing countries where pest management is relatively more costly to execute due to a generally poor underlying economy.
Pest management activities in Tanzania have rarely been supported by thoroughly controlled local studies, instead, most pest management interventions have been carried out in "crisis" and on the basis of data obtained elsewhere, usually from the "developed" countries. Such control activities have often also been planned, financed, and carried out by foreign consultants or under their supervision. Consequently, pest control measures have been erratic, poorly monitored, and have lacked sustainability.
Sustainable crop pest management research in Tanzania is essential because yields for most crops in Tanzania have, on average remained low due to pests. For example, in Tanzania, an annual average of 640kg/ha for beans is achieved compared to 3000kg/ha obtained in USA. The use of pesticides commonly practised in most developing countries offers only a temporary solution to the pest problem and moreover, most farmers cannot afford the cost of the pesticides. In addition, the use of pesticides without sufficient knowledge of their side-effects may create serious problems to the environment.
For example, in recent years pesticide resistance by common pests, and pesticide residues in fruits, grain, and animal produce have increased in the developing world due to irrational use of pesticides. Pest biology, ecology and diversity, and the description and quantification of crop damage have been little studied in Tanzania. This knowledge is fundamental towards achieving a sustainable crop pest management in the future and SUA should take the lead to achieve these goals.