A team of Kenyan agricultural experts have been sent to Brazil to study how to control the armyworm-a pest that is destroying crops countrywide, leaving farmers to grapple with losses with little help from chemical pesticides.
“To address the deteriorating food situation in Kenya, the government resolved that food scientists, soil experts among other agriculture and pesticide control experts visit Brazil to study how the country has been able to record success in armyworm fight-the experts are drawn from different government agencies, said Dr. Andrew Tuimur, Agriculture Chief Administrative Secretary.
According to the ministry of agriculture ministry, up to 200,000 acres of land had been affected by the Fall Army Worm( FAW) in 2017 amounting to sh 24.2 billion in losses. The situation resulted in a panic among farmers as they tried both traditional and chemical means to control the pest to no avail.
“Each chemical manufacturer was presenting their type of chemical and saying it works against the Fall Army Worm (FAW), which now became a commercial venture, we restricted and came up with some probable chemicals which world help in fighting the worm, “Said Willy Bett, Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Agriculture, while officiating the handing over of hormone based traps to the government by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) last year.
The army worm, feeds on more than 80 types of crops including sugarcane and sorghum but prefers maize. It grows quickly, has a ferocious appetite and spreads from country to country through moth migration and trade.
So far it has spread to 28 African countries, a situation that has attracted the attention of the African Union who have termed it as a major threat to food security in Africa. It is estimated that the worm could cost 12 of the continents major maize producer up to $ 6.1 billion in maize loss per year according to a report by the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI).
Brazil on the other hand has successfully fought the armyworm by going beyond chemical control and including biological control and resistant maize varieties. However, the worm has started developing resistance to the Bt maize variety used to mitigate them Brazil. As such, Kenya needs to ensure that we are ahead of the trends and learning the technologies that countries like Brazil are looking at to help them fight the pest in the future in addition to what has worked for them in the past.