Kenya’s bread basket under threat from Fall Army Worms

April 7, 2017 10:31 am
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Kenya’s bread basket in the Rift Valley is among regions affected as well as Taita-Taveta, Kwale in the Coast and Western regions of Kakamega and Bungoma counties/FILE

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 7 – The deadly Fall Army Worm (FAW) has been detected in various regions in the country, but the government is assuring that it may not have a big impact on crops due to the ongoing rains.

In an interview with Capital FM News, Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Researcher Director General Eliud Krieger said the worms detected are still not in their productive stages and can be contained before they cause havoc in farms.

Kenya’s bread basket in the Rift Valley is among regions affected as well as Taita-Taveta, Kwale in the Coast and Western regions of Kakamega and Bungoma counties.

“A field survey conducted in March 2017 and other current reports have confirmed presence of Fall Army Worm in the mentioned counties, “he said.

From the African continent, this pest was first reported in September 2016 in the West Africa region.

It has now been reported in Central, Southern and East African regions.

In Kenya, FAW infestation was first detected in Trans Nzoia County in the second week of March on off-season irrigated maize.

The spread and likely economic impact of FAW in Kenya is the potential to cause 100 per cent loss in a wide range of crops such as maize, rice, pasture, sorghum, millet, cotton and some vegetable crops.

This will result into national food insecurity and loss of income unless urgent measures are implemented.

Meanwhile leaders from affected regions are making efforts to control the spread of the worms with funds having been allocated to buy more chemicals.

This comes as the national government says it is on high alert of the pest’s spread after its attack on bordering countries of Uganda and Tanzania.

No studies in the country have been undertaken, therefore, the suggested management options are based on publications from other countries.

They include strengthening national and county capacity in surveillance, diagnostic skills and management of fall army worm by training public private extension service providers, seed inspectors, agrochemical dealers, spraying teams, researchers, farmers and the general public is critical to fast track adoption of strategies to mitigate against the threat of this new migratory pest.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) on February confirmed the pest in Zimbabwe and preliminary reports suggest it may also be present in Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia.

An investigation by the Centre for Agriculture and Bio-sciences International (CABI) has found that the fall army worm is established in Ghana.

Experts at CABI say it could take several years to develop effective methods to control the pest.

And they say there is confusion over the identity of the fall army worm as it is similar to other types of army worm, which are already present in Africa.

The Fall Army Worm originates from North and South America and is usually dispersed by wind and burrows in maize stems and cobs making it extremely difficult to be detected and can destroy thousands of hectares within days.

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