Kenya is staring at a major food security crisis in the face of an invasion by the devastating fall army worms that are devouring maize crops in 13 counties and spreading fast to other counties.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock & Fisheries has sounded the alarm and advised farmers to take immediate action to combat the pest that has capacity to cause up to 100 per cent crop destruction.
The invasion complicates a situation already compounded by a prolonged drought as the weatherman warns the long awaited long rains will not be enough. By mid-April the rains were yet to fall as expected. The drought and the army worm are a double tragedy to our food security that’s also taking a knock from skyrocketing prices of basic commodities like Unga and sugar.
The Ministry’s Crops Division has notified all county directors of agriculture about the presence or possible invasion of the worm in the South Rift food basket counties of Baringo, Trans Nzoia, Bungoma, Kakamega, Narok, Uasin Gishu, Nandi, Kericho, Baringo, Nakuru, Busia and Siaya, through Crops Director, Dr Johnson Irungu.
The pest causes massive losses in maize and attacks other cereal crops like sorghum, rice, millet, wheat and barley. Pasture grasses like Bermuda, hay and Napier grasses are not spared while other susceptible crops include kales, cabbages, legumes, bananas, tomatoes, capsicums, ginger, spinach, amaranthus, onions, sugar beet, citrus, cucumber and sunflower.
Some of these crops like kales, bananas, tomatoes and cabbages are key food security vegetables. For a country that has witnessed massive deaths of livestock from the drought, an attack on pasture at this time can only plunge farmers into further misery.
The Ministry has consequently recommended a list of nine insecticides for the management of the fall army worms. Four of these products are distributed by Elgon Kenya Limited, namely Coragen and Avaunt from Du Pont, Fastac from BASF and Vantex from Cheminova In that order, the products range from A-D and any used interchangeably with the other will prevent resistance.
The company has partnered with multinational agriculture science companies to avail original molecules in the country which makes the nation ready to combat pest invasions.
A case in point is the invasion of tuta obsoluta that nearly wiped out tomato production two years ago, but since the firm had partnered with Du Pont and launched Coragen, it became easier to provide a solution even as authorities and scientists scratched their heads for a lasting solution. The presence of Coragen meant it was immediately available for fast response.
Through online shop www.ElgonKenya.co.ke farmers can buy the product.
Fall army worm was first reported in September 2016 in West Africa and as spread as far as South Africa where reports indicated it has destroyed more than 100,000 hectares of maize in three African countries.