More than 200,000 acres of farmland in Kenya’s grain basket of the North Rift has been affected by the fall armyworm invasion, threatening food security.
This translates to an estimated Sh50 million loss, with Turbo Sub-County in Uasin-Gishu County the worst hit.
According to Livestock Principal Secretary Andrew Tuimur, up to 20 per cent of the farms in the county have been affected by the pest, which has the capacity to cause up to 100 per cent crop destruction.
Mr Tuimur, who toured several affected farms on Saturday, acknowledged that the pest is difficult to control.
He, however, said the government would help farmers to fight the pest, which has affected 25 counties.
“The national government, together with the county governments and other agencies, are working together to see how we can help control and curb this worm,” said Mr Tuimur. Consequently, farmers in the region have been urged to report armyworm sightings to agricultural extension officers for expert advice on what pesticides to use and how the pest can be controlled.
The farmers have complained of incurring huge costs in fighting the armyworms.
For instance, one belt of the pesticide, which can spray 12.5 acres, costs Sh22,000.
The armyworms have destroyed maize crop in Bungoma, Kakamega, Uasin Gishu, Trans-Nzoia, Busia, Nandi, Kericho, Baringo and Nakuru, among other counties.
“The fall armyworms signal a tough economic season for us since we had not anticipated it in our farming budget,” said Mr David Kosgei, a farmer in Tapsagoi Ward, Uasin Gishu. “I have sprayed my farm thrice and the pest is persistent in destroying the maize.”
INVADED BY PESTS
Another farmer, Mr Jonathan Tarus, said: “In just one week, the entire farm was invaded by these pests and our efforts to control and curb them is not bearing fruit.”
In 2015, farmers lost more than 260,000 hectares of maize crop, valued at Sh2 billion, to an invasion by the viral maize lethal necrosis in parts of Rift Valley.
Last year, maize production in Rift Valley dropped from 21 million bags to 16 million bags but it is feared this year will be worse if the armyworm invasion is not checked.
According to Mr Tuimur, the government has not yet found the appropriate chemical to control the armyworm and encouraged farmers to continue spraying as they look for a solution.
“We are still trying to find out which is the best chemical to use in fighting the fall armyworms,” said Mr Tuimur. “Since this is a new menace in this country, we have research agencies that are trying to help us because agrovets are taking advantage of the situation to exploit farmers.”
The pest, which originated from South America, can destroy more than 30 different types of crops and are active during the night.