Fall Army worm
Kakamega County is racing against time to control the spread of the dreaded fall army worms that continue to destroy farms in Western Kenya.
The pests, which invaded farms in Kakamega County last week, have already spread to Bungoma County.
Experts had earlier warned that the pest could spread across the entire region if quick action is not taken.
Kakamega County has since set aside Sh3 million for purchase of chemicals to help control the the pest’s spread.
The county’s agriculture boss Kulati Wangia yesterday emerged from a meeting with Governor Wycliffe Oparanya to announce that money had been released as a matter of urgency.
“We are staring at a disaster because the pest is fast spreading to Trans Nzoia, which is the country’s food basket. So far, there are deliberations among the four counties in former WesternProvince namely Vihiga, Bungoma, Busia, Kakamega and Trans Nzoia on how we can pool resources to rid ourselves of the armyworm menace,” he said yesterday.
Kulati said they would target the most affected areas first because some farmers might not afford the chemicals that have been tested and found to be effective against the worms.
“The worm found its way into our territory from Ghana and South Africa due to climate change. The pest is deadly and new, its effects may take longer than expected because they feast on both young and mature crop,” said Kulati, who added that they were planning to involve the national government because the interventions required might be costly.
“We encourage farmers to continue spraying their farms as we try to look for more resources,” he said.
Jacob Masimba, a county agricultural officer in Kakamega, revealed that at least 60 per cent of farms had been attacked by the deadly pest.
“We have started organising public barazas to enable us create awareness and give farmers tips on how to stop the pest from spreading further and causing more harm,” he said.
He said they were working closely with chiefs, ward administrators and extension officers to successfully deal with the insects.
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“Fall army worms attack the crop right from a tender age and continue with the destruction of mature maize and other cereals and grass.”
Some farmers in Bungoma said the pest had been spotted in some farms in the area.
“Whenever a farmer spots one or two of the army worms, he or she must report the matter urgently to agriculture offices or notify their chiefs for action to be taken immediately,” said Masimba.
Experts said the fall army worms were similar to the African army worms, but the former are more lethal when they invade crops.
Masimba said the pest could resort to attacking sorghum, rice, Napier grass and even ordinary grass after wiping out all maize farms.
“That is why we are calling upon farmers to attend our public barazas to learn more and know the exact chemicals to use.”
Farmers have been advised to pool resources and buy the required chemicals as opposed to resorting to traditional methods such as smearing cow dung on affected crops.
“It is not only tedious but an unreliable system. Experts will recommend effective chemicals.”
Some farmers earlier said they had been boiling water and pouring it on the affected crops but the method had not worked out. Offices belonging to chiefs, ward administrators and even local MCAs have been converted into information centres where farmers have been reporting the presence of army worms.
Masimba said there are affordable chemicals farmers can rely on to effectively control the pest.