The most important question around the world is how to meet the food needs of the 9 billion people that are planned for 2050 in the current context of climate change? At the same time 52 million children under 5 years of age are wasted and 155 million are stunted.
Meanwhile, agriculture throughout the world and mainly in tropical countries like Benin are suffering from severe losses due to pests. Just for vegetable production, especially cabbage and tomato, insect pests are the major biotic constraints and cause from 10 up to 90 percent of yield losses. Thus, farmers are continually in need of effective tools to fight against pests. But the damage caused by overuse of synthetic pesticide both on human life and environment is a real problem that needs a great solution.
As a light in the darkness, biopesticides are pointed out as solution for the world. For this alternative, according to me, the use of the biodiversity is required. However, in Africa and in Benin particularly, some species very useful for humanity are neglected and are in the process of disappearing if nothing is done. These include traditional leafy vegetables that are very rich in nutrients and are not very demanding on agricultural inputs. These vegetables of high nutritional values, in addition to being medicinal plants, possess insecticidal properties. This is the case of Ocimum gratissimum (also known as clove basil or African basil).
In 2018 these findings led me to create my start up “Agriculture to Nutrition”. This was the first step of my successful project which aims by 2023 to make available and accessible on the local and regional market traditional leafy vegetables to improve the nutritional status of women, children and adults. The second step is valorization of these leafy vegetables and this has led me to commit for PhD research on the use of essential oil of Ocimum gratissimum in the fight against insects in horticultural systems of Benin.
Our idea for sustainable crop protection is to use Ocimum gratissimum essentials oils to fight against cabbage and tomato pests in Benin horticultural systems. This idea, in addition to highlighting the repulsive effect of Ocimmum gratissimum, draws attention to how often neglected indigenous leafy vegetables, besides being highly nutritious possess insecticidal properties useful to humanity as well to reduce pre and post-harvest losses in a current context of climate change. Our product will be used by farmers in order to fight against insects, protect their health environment as well as consumer’s health.
To achieve this aim the steps we will intend to take to develop our idea are as followed:
- Assess genetic diversity of Ocimum gratissimum based on volatile oil constituents, flavonoids in Benin;
- Select the best genotype of Ocimum gratissimum base on the quantity and quality of the essential oil;
- Extract Ocimum gratissimum essentials oils;
- Evaluate repellent effects of essential oils on cabbage and tomato pests in field;
- Train farmers and agricultural extension officers through farmers’ field school;
- Raise awareness among all stakeholders (farmers, consumers, researchers, government etc.) through social network, mass media and public service advertising;
- Set up an essential oil production unit for commercialization;
- Elaborate policy brief to make policy makers to take decision for the increasing essentials oils production in order to promote Bio-organic farming.
The expected result of the proposed research is to produce the best “Ocimum gratissimum essential oil” both in quality and quantity that control cabbage and tomato pests.
The direct impact of our project is the reduction of yield losses, the improvement of the living conditions of our farmers, and employment creation. With the weeks of sensitization many vegetable farmers will see their incomes increase. Their gross margins will have improved significantly. These additional revenues will be mainly allocated to the food budget or school fees of their children. Urban consumers will see their nutritional health improved. The production of leafy vegetables more affordable will enable vulnerable populations to improve their food and nutritional security. The rate of malnutrition recorded in pregnant and newborn women will decrease. On the environmental level, our project will contribute to the sustainability of endangered traditional leafy vegetable species and to the nature’s protection.
I would like to participate in IUPAC Next Generation Agri-summit and the N-GAGE Project, to share my passion and experiences with other young plant protection leaders and access to seasoned veterans in entrepreneurship who will be there to guide me on my quest to reach my goals. It will help me to find the right tech to use, more useful skills and techniques and gain access to a wide network of entrepreneurs/ plant protection leaders. All of the above will allow me to contribute substantially to the reduction of pre and post-harvest losses in Benin and throughout the world.
Armel Frida Dossa, Benin