On 22nd August 2019, I attended “Melia Volkensii” workshop at the invitation of Prof. Florence Olubayo of the College of Agriculture and Veterinary Services, UON. Also in attendance were scientists from Ghent University, Belgium. Professor Olubayo is one of my Africlp action research participants in Trans Nzoia County. I gave one of the two keynote presentations titled “Climate change mitigation and adaptation in the Nzoia basin using vermitechnology (click here to read the presentation).
Melia Volkensii is a tree with inherent features that enable it to grow naturally in the arid and semi arid land s of East Africa. It is being propagated in ASAL regions using organic fertilizers.
Bio pesticidal properties
Melia is related to the Indian neem tree (Azadirachta indica) that is popular for a bioactive product that has been utilized in controlling crop pests. Both Melia and Neem trees have been traditionally applied for the control of several human and domestic animal health complications. Biopesticides are gaining popularity due to the scientific evidence leaning towards the negative effects of the use of agricultural chemicals and pesticides in controlling common pests. The active ingredients of the extracts of bark, fruits and leaves of M Volkensii have been isolated and determined. The effect of crude extract and active ingredient has been examined on a range of important pests e.g. the Colorado potato beetle, Spodoptera exigua, an army worm, and Cylas puncticollis, the sweet potato weevil amongst others.
Melia levees have been used as fodder for domestic animals while the branches have found use as firewood in rural Kenya. Melia is therefore a prime candidate for reforestation of Kenya.
Seedling production is however limited due to the hard nut that covers and provides physical dormancy to the seed. Seedling propagation is also hampered because the fragile seeds need a protective environment while being raised.
Bio technological intervention
Tissue culture of selected elite trees and mass multiplication of the same will help in addressing the propagation problem. Development of commercially amenable procedures for bio-active product extraction and use indication for given crop pests will provide a sound framework for the rural communities. Hence the formation of a partnership between the University of Nairobi, the University of Ghent, the Kenya Forestry Research Institute and Better Globe Forestry Ltd for research on biotechnology and utilization of Melia Volkensii. Elite material from its provenance/progeny trials has been collected and established in-vitro and micro-propagated using various plant growth regulators for mass development of shoots in-vitro.