Rwanda saved 95 per cent of its maize crop from the armyworm invasion that ravaged large tracts of southern and eastern Africa earlier this year, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, during a briefing to the parliamentary oversight committee on Agriculture and livestock two weeks ago.
According to official figures from the Ministry of Agriculture, about 3,500 out of 64,000 hectares of the maize crop was lost to the pest during the low peak season B. This translated to a loss of 10,000 metric tonnes out of the expected 206,000 metric tonnes of maize.
In all, 21,000 hectares were attacked by the armyworm but a joint response involving the Ministry of Agriculture and the Rwanda Defence Forces, saw more than 17,000 hectares saved from the invasion.
Although the armyworm attacked other crops including sorghum, rice, and wheat, it was not possible to verify losses on those crops.
During the briefing, the Ministry of Agriculture reported that they had received reports of a resurgence of the armyworm in Gisagara District in the Southern province and Bugesera District in the Eastern province shortly after the start of the 2018 Season A.
Efforts to contain the new wave are however facing difficulties because of a climate that is conducive to the pest, according to the agriculture Minister Geraldine Mukeshimana.
“We have encountered difficulties in containing the new infestation due to our climate which favours the armyworm’s reproduction. The eggs of last year’s armyworm in the soil are likely to hatch in the coming farming season with a high likelihood of major infestation,” Ms Mukeshimana told the legislators.
This comes amid plans to increase maize production during the coming season to meet growing demand.
The Ministry of Agriculture estimates that roughly Rwf329 million ($389,930) will be required to buy equipment and pesticides needed to mitigate the threat of a new outbreak.
It is projected that 19,000 litres of pesticide worth slightly more than Rwf230 million ($273,000) will be needed to contain the pest. The pesticides will need to be delivered in advance to farmers.
Thelesphore Ndabamenye, the head of crop production and food security at the Rwanda Agriculture Board said that despite budget constraints, he expected interventions to kick off in the coming days.
“We are still mobilising money for procuring these pesticides and other equipment that will be needed. We hope that by the time the crop reaches the point where spraying is required, the pesticides will be at the farms,” said Dr Ndabamenye.