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Nyanza farmers face crop failure as army worm and stalk borer strikes

The fall army worm that is wrecking havoc in most maize farms in parts of Western Kenya and Rift Valley. 06.04.2017. PHOTOS BY OSINDE OBARE

Farmers in at least 11 counties are staring at massive crop failure after the stubborn armyworm and stalk borer invaded their farms.

The worm, that can eat up to 10 times its body mass, has been reported in farms in Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu and Bungoma. Agricultural experts say the pest is endemic in Brazil and is more resistant to common agro-chemicals used for control.

A spot check revealed massive destruction in farms, and a number of farmers are already counting losses: Justus Bong’o, 62, a resident of Ong’eche in Nyando discovered the worms in his farm two weeks ago as he was weeding his eight-acre piece of land. “I reported the matter to the county agricultural department, and was advised to buy some chemicals, which most farmers cannot afford,” said Bong’o.

Stunted growth

About 200 metres away from his farm is 50-year-old John Oyamo, whose maize crop has not been spared either. Some of his plants are starting to experience stunted growth, the leaves yellowing.

“The worms can choose to attack one row and skip the next, though the destruction is spread all over the farm,” said Oyamo.

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Elkana Lunani, a large scale farmer from Kiminini Constituency also has his 66-acre farm under maize production invaded by the armyworm.

“I thought it was the normal stalk borer but after several attempts to spray with pesticides, the crop worsened,” he said. Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett said a Sh200 million programme set to eradicate the worm targets counties that have reported the pest attack.

“We are putting a stop gap measure to eradicate this pest that threatens to wipe out our food crop and render the country food insufficient,” said Bett in Kiminini Constituency when he toured affected farms recently. And in Kisumu, County Agriculture Chief Officer Ben Angir said a team has been formed to map out possible intervention.

“We got information of armyworm invasion in parts of the county a while ago; we know the pest is migratory, so we started watching out. When it was reported in Seme, we decided to map the entire county,” said Angir.

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