Kenya has launched a campaign to control the Fall Armyworm, (FAW) which has been sighted by farmers feeding on Maize in Trans Nzoia County, Kenya. Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mr. Willy Bett said the pest poses a serious threat to the country’s food security situation.
“Its impact will be severe given that the country is just recovering from a drought that has affected food production. This risk is heightened since Trans Nzoia is the country’s grain basket producing maize both for seed and for consumption. The government has allocated 200million Kenya shillings for the campaign and we are working with partners to help us fight this pest”. The pest is spreading fast and has been spotted in 10 other counties of Bungoma, Kakamega, Uasin Gishu, Kwale, Taita Taveta, Nandi, Makueni, Vihiga, Busia, and Kisumu.
Elicana Lunani a farmer from Kinyoro Ward, Saboti Sub-county recounts his experience “This year I saw this pest and thought it was the normal armyworm, I tried controlling it by spraying with the normal chemicals during the day but it did not work despite several attempts. I lost a lot of money as a result since I had to buy chemicals repeatedly. After today’s visit, experts have identified it as the Fall armyworm. It feeds and is very active at night and I have been told to spray the chemicals early morning or evening.
CABI’s Dr MaryLucy Oronje who accompanied the cabinet secretary in the mission explained how the pest spread from South America to Africa and into the country as an Invasive pest. “ We need to understand how the pest came into the country to minimize risks posed by similar threats in the future. Chemicals are a short-term measure, so we need to learn from Latin America and focus on developing biological control measures and strengthening phytosanitary standards. CABI already facilitated the south- south collaboration workshop in Kenya to share experiences between Kenya and Brazil on controlling pest and diseases from Latin America, Asia and Africa.”
A plant health rally was held after the cabinet secretary addressed farmers. Pest identification, cultural and chemical control methods were shared with over 200 farmers.
“This pest has really damaged maize in my half acre farm. Last season I harvested 18 bags but I see that declining this season. The harvest will not be enough to feed my family and pay school fees for my children. I have learnt from the rally that I need to spray in the evening when they are active, plant early, and avoid moving infected crops to other farms, ” says Rose Boit Cheruto.
KALRO, working with other Plantwise-implementing partners has developed a pest management decision guide to manage FAW and is currently spear-heading efforts to sensitize farmers about the pest, pest surveillance, research into management methods and institutionalization of area wide control measures.
CABI is part of the Kenya FAW consortium made up of Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organization (KALRO), Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS), Plant Protection Services Division (PPSD), University of Nairobi (UoN) and Pest Control Products Board (PCPB) working to manage the pest. All the partners are involved in Plantwise implementation in the country