Armyworm re-emerges in Kenya's breadbasket

Thursday July 20 2017

Some of the army worms that have invaded farms in Taita-Taveta County destroying crops. PHOTO | DANIEL NYASSY | NMG

Some of the army worms that have invaded farms in different parts of Kenya. PHOTO | DANIEL NYASSY | NMG 

By STANLEY KIMUGE
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Kenyan maize farmers in the North Rift are battling re-infestation of the fall armyworm that is threatening the country's food security.

According to Uasin Gishu County CEC in charge of agriculture, Dr Cyril Cheruyot, the pest had affected 100,000 hectares of maize plantation.

“About 40 per cent of the farms have reported signs of recovery. However, the challenge we have with the migratory pest is new as most farmers didn’t have knowledge to control it. The biggest worry is re-infestation because this pest affects all stages of maize,” said Dr Cheruyot.

Mr Cheruyot noted that as a long-term strategy, the devolved unit was training its sights on intensive sensitisation programmes for farmers, especially those who grow maize during the off-seasons.

“This year, the yield is expected to go down between 20 to 30 per cent due to severe drought and fall armyworm,” he said.

The official said that the county has spent Sh14 million ($134,680) from its emergency kitty to contain spread of the pest.

Patrick Gachanja, a marketing manager at Bayer East Africa, said that they have so far distributed pesticides worth Sh10 million ($96,200) to five counties: Uasin Gishu, Nandi, Kakamega, Nyeri and Kwale.

Change regime

Earlier this month, the country's Agriculture Secretary Willy Bett asked farmers to change their pest-control regime so as to contain the spread of the worm.

He also called on chemical manufacturers to consider huge discounts for small-scale farmers as well as stepping up awareness campaigns.

The ministry has approved at least nine chemicals for controlling the pest.

“Researchers are exploring biological means of controlling the pest, but currently chemical control is the way to go. But I have challenged KALRO and other institutions to study what other countries are doing other than the use of chemicals to fight this worm and we are open to those alternative methods,” said the CS.