Legacy of AgriTT programme lives on at Rwandan biocontrol facility to fight crop pests

    Beneficial nematode experts from RAB, IPP-CAAS, GIABR, as well as from CABI (China, Kenya, Switzerland)at the biocontrol agent mass production facility at RAB Rubona in Rwanda.

    The legacy of the Working in Partnership for Agricultural Technology Transfer (AgriTT) programme – funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) – is living on at a facility in Rwanda which is producing biological control agents to kill a variety of crop pests including the devastating fall armyworm.

    The Rwandan Agriculture and Animal Resource Board (RAB) is continuing to operate a biocontrol agent mass production facility at its southern station in Rubona that was born of the AgriTT programme which ran there from 2014 to 2016.

    The AgriTT programme facilitated the sharing of successful experience in agricultural development through three-angular West-South-South cooperation, especially from China, Europe and other developing countries in order to improve agricultural productivity and the food security of poor people. Overall, the programme ran from March 2013 until March 2017 and also involved Uganda and Malawi.

    CABI-coordinated the technology transfer project, between China, Switzerland, the UK, Kenya and Rwanda – financed through DFID’s AgriTT Research Challenge Fund – and continues to ‘bear fruit’ today through its research and development activities to control soil pests, and invasive species such as tomato leaf miner or fall armyworm. The facility is able to produce at least 100 billion insect-killing beneficial nematodes. Also known as entomopathogenic nematodes, these are enough to treat more than 100 hectares of field crops or seed beds later transplanted healthy to over 800 hectares.

    Dr Toepfer from CABI, Dr. Li from GIABR Guangzhou and Mr Bazagwira at the Rubona station harvest mass-produced beneficial nematodes

    Dr Stefan Toepfer, Research Scientist – Arthropod Biological Control at CABI, said, “Despite the fact that the AgriTT project is long finished, RAB is continuing to invest in this environmentally more sustainable biocontrol approach.

    “It is hoped that biocontrol facility will continue to run and that an up-scale and out-scale can be achieved – through governmental funds or technology dissemination projects – to serve many farmers who suffer heavy crop damage by soil insects or the fall armyworm.”

    The facility is currently operating through Rwandan governmental funds with Research & Development conducted through national projects such as through the Ministry of Finance.

    As a result, RAB has three international nematodes in culture as well as six Rwandan ones. Two of the more recent strains have been isolated in 2018 as part of the PhD research project of Patrick Fallet run by the University of Neuchatel, CABI Switzerland and RAB with the objective of developing biocontrol methods against the fall armyworm. Also, a Rwandan PhD student, Assinapol Ndederyimana from Egerton University of Kenya and RAB is conducting some of his research on leaf miner control through beneficial nematodes at the facility.

    Dr Toepfer added, “Due to capacity building, RAB has a skilled four-person team producing biocontrol agents and conducting related research and development. However, more staff need to be trained