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Army worm outbreak wreaks havoc in Western Kenya farms

The fall army worm that is destroying maize plants in parts of Western Kenya and the Rift Valley. [Osinde Obare, Standard]

Leaders from Western Kenya want the fall army worm invasion in the region declared a national disaster.

Trans Nzoia Governor Patrick Khaemba and Kakamega Deputy Governor Philip Kutima said the pest had invaded huge tracts of land under maize and would lead to huge losses.

Speaking in his office, Prof Kutima said the Sh50 million emergency kitty per county was a mere drop in the ocean. “It is too little to help us mount a serious campaign that would help salvage our crops,” he said.

Governor Khaemba said farmers were losing everything following the invasion by the worms.

“The national government must declare this tragedy a national disaster and allocate enough money to deal with the problem without further delay. We may have 100 per cent loss of the crop,” he said.

The pest, which fast attacked farms in Kakamega County has been spreading like wild fire to neighbouring counties including Bungoma, Trans Nzoia, Busia and Vihiga.

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Maize invasion

Peter Lunani, a large scale farmer in Trans Nzoia, is counting losses already after the worms invaded his 300 acre farm and destroyed maize.

Lunani, who engages in both seed maize and commercial maize production in Saboti has lost investment worth Sh1 million to the worms.

“I had spent about Sh30,000 per acre. All this has gone to waste. My efforts to spray the farm to fight off the pest have been unsuccessful,” the farmer said.

Mr Lunani is not alone and was at pains to explain the massive destruction caused by the pest, which was first spotted in the county last December.

He is fearful that due to the pest attack on maize seeds, there might be a possibility of shortage next year.

“We don’t know how we are going to service the loans we took to undertake the activities. We are urging for support from the national government to provide us with free farm inputs for replanting,” he said.

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Belt concentration, a pesticide recommended to fight off the worm, is unaffordable to most farmers. One litre to spray 10 acres sells at Sh22,000.

According to experts, the chemical is supposed to be sprayed within an interval of 14 days until the crop matures.

In Kiminini and Endebess sub-counties where several farmers had done dry planting, the crop has been consumed by the pest and they have no option other than replanting.

“It is a big loss. We have to look for money and replant because the entire crop field has been ruined,” complained Philip Sakong, a farmer in Matumbei ward.

Food shortage

Kutima said residents faced biting food shortage as maize, which is the staple food, had been ravaged by the worms.

“The Sh3 million released by the county government for the purchase of chemicals is negligible because we are dealing with a big problem. Concerted efforts from all the counties in Western Kenya and the national government are welcome. The Trans Nzoia County government has released Sh45 million as an emergency fund to fight the invasion, which has already destroyed over 500 hectares under maize,” said Kutima.

It has also emerged that a multi-institutional technical team of experts drawn from both private and public sectors had confirmed the presence of the pest in Kenya in March.

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