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Presented By: Charles Bonaventure

Event: ECHO East Africa Symposium II on Best Practices in Highland Areas (2016-11-01)

ECHO has become aware of an invasive weed in many areas in Africa. Parthenium hysterophorus, a noxious weed, has spread from its native region in Mexico and South America to more than twenty countries globally, arriving in Ethiopia in the 1980s in contaminated famine-relief food supplies. Since then it has advanced throughout Kenya and northern Tanzania.

Parthenium is considered one of the worst weeds in East Africa because it reduces crop yield, decreases biodiversity, and harms both human and animal health. Parthenium releases toxins into the soil that kill or suppress the growth of other plants. In some fields of maize and beans have produced little to no harvestable crop because of the presence of Parthenium. When animals, like cows or goats, eat Parthenium, they develop mouth sores, the milk and meat become tainted with an unpalatable flavor, and they may even die.

Prolonged exposure to the vegetation or pollen of Parthenium can result in dermatitis for humans– a rash that usually appears on the hands, arms, neck, and face. Many women in Arusha suffer from Parthenium-induced dermatitis. Furthermore, the pollen damages the respiratory system, triggering asthma or bronchitis.Parthenium spreads rapidly and is difficult to control because each plant can produce up to 25,000 seeds, which can survive in the soil for up to ten years.