Farmers are banking on sorghum after fall armyworms destroyed their maize.
The invasion that began in mid-April left maize farmers with huge losses at a time when Kenya is facing a serious shortage of food.
While several maize farms were destroyed, those who allocated portions of their land to sorghum are happy as the gamble has paid off.
Some farmers opted to grow sorghum after the introduction of a fast-maturing variety in the region.
Sorghum was meant to supplement maize, the main crop in the region. However, it appears it will be heavily relied on now that the armyworms destroyed the maize.
Ambuso Opila, a resident of Kochieng in Nyando sub-county, is one of those who took up sorghum farming, dedicating five of his eight-acre farm at Okana Swamp, and he says he has no regrets.
The swamp had been out of bounds due to regular flooding but interventions by the county government have seen huge parcels of land reclaimed.
The county has been digging trenches and building dykes to prevent farms from flooding.
Opila said his decision to dedicate most of his land to sorghum was a gamble. But he is happy it paid off, adding that he expected to harvest at least 100 bags.
“I am surprised the worms did not attack the sorghum as such. I think I will continue growing sorghum,” said Opila as he prepares to harvest his crop in the next few weeks.
Another farmer, Joshua Aduma, will rely on his three acres of sorghum after his maize crop was attacked.
“Having planted maize for a decade, I decided to set aside a portion of my land for sorghum. Some friends discouraged me but I am happy my gamble paid off,” he said.
“I would have put more land under sorghum had the county government provided us with seeds and given us access to its tractors.”
Data from the county’s Agriculture ministry shows 38,190 hectares were put under maize and another 17,100 under sorghum this season.
The ministry had projected a harvest of 763,800 bags of maize and 171,000 bags of sorghum. Only about 584,280 bags of maize and 153,900 of sorghum will be harvested this season.
Agriculture Chief Officer Ben Angir said a recent report revealed a massive loss of crops due to the armyworms attack.
“We can confirm at least 30 per cent of the crops have been lost, with maize being the most affected,” said Mr Angir.
The report dubbed ‘Kisumu County Crop, Food and Price Situation Report as at June 12’ shows 5,730 hectares under maize and 1,710 of sorghum were totally destroyed by the worms.
The government supplied farmers with chemicals to control the pests and crops were completely destroyed in areas that were never sprayed or had no repeat spraying.
“In the meantime, maize stocks are depleted. The available stocks are from outside the county,” read the report.
“This report has made us change our extension messages to convince farmers to focus on crops such as sorghum that can withstand a variety of weather conditions. Let us not invest in maize for now because of the worms,” said Angir.
He said previous studies had shown the worms thrived in hot climatic conditions witnessed in East Africa and this was likely to affect food security in the country.