The Rwandan government says it is making progress against the fall armyworm invasion, weeks after the pest attacked affecting an estimated 15,300 hectares of the maize crop.
Armyworms were first reported in the country in February in Nyamagabe, Huye and Nyanza districts before spreading to other parts of the country.
But the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MINAGRI) now says efforts to control the pest are yielding results, and losses are expected to have minimal impact on food security and farmers’ earnings.
“The recovery of maize crop is progressing and varies between 40 and 70 per cent depending on the stage of treatment. For example, in Rwangingo, Nyagatare and Nyamagabe where the armyworm attack started, the maize has recovered,” said Ange Soubirous Tambineza, the Agriculture Communication and Information Programme Manager at MINAGRI.
The ministry projects that maize production for the current season will reach 781,000 tonnes, up from 652,000 tonnes for the past season. According to MINAGRI, overall production for major food crops for season 2017B is expected to be 3.2 million metric tonnes compared with 2.9million metric tonnes of season 2016B.
This rise is attributed to an increase in the cultivated area from 590,000ha to 610,000 ha and increased productivity of rice and Irish potatoes.
Although the armyworm invasion came when the country was banking on being fully recovered from the effects of a long dry spell last year, MINAGRI says the drought affect affected only 47,000 households, who received food support and inputs for season 2017B, hence the positive outlook.
“All the other crops planted in the current season are in good condition and the maize plantations affected by armyworm has started to recover and farmers expect to get a good harvest,” said Ms Tambineza.
Rwanda has deployed a massive armyworm control campaign involving MINAGRI and other institutions including the military, which has so far seen more than 7,000 litres of pesticides expended in affected areas.
The fall armyworm invasion currently poses a major threat to food security in neighbouring countries of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania as the pest attacks not only maize but also sorghum and sugarcane crops.
MINAGRI told Rwanda Today that the government intends to fast-track research on merits of transgenic organisms in order to reinforce the country’s ability to detect and respond to trans-boundary crop pests such as the fall armyworm.