By Checky Abuje (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Agricultural experts from the Western region of Kenya have raised an alarm over impending food Insecurity following the invasion of farms by the lethal pest African Army Worm in most parts of Western and Rift Valley.
Some of the areas under attack, according to experts are Busia, Bungoma, Trans-Nzoia and parts of Rift Valley which are traditionally referred to as “Kenya’s Food Basket”
Ruth Wilhelm Mukhongo is an insect as well as soil expert working with county government of Busia. According to her, African Army Worm is more lethal on crops, especially grass family and legumes than any other pest experts can think of including Fowl Army Worm.
Mukhongo at the same time disclosed to Africa Science News that as a result of the Worm devastating effects, there is an impending food insecurity in the country if this Worm is left at bay, adding that the situation could complicate further the socio-economic fabrics of residents in Western and Rift Valley given the harsh economic times bedevelling Kenyans of all walks
She agrees that though the pinch of invasion will be felt across board, she confides that the most affected segment are the small holder farmers who cannot afford chemicals to sprays their farm against the Worm and urges the government to provide fertiliser subsidies to farmers in that category.
Mukhongo however, revealed that county governments in affected areas including Busia are working closely with the National government through the ministry of Agriculture on best ways forward to contain the deadly pest before the situation gets out of hand for control.
“We have already received considerable amount of pesticides that include Alpha and other brands of promotional pesticides from the National Government to spray invaded farms across Busia county at no cost” reiterated Mukhongo.
She lauded Agri-chemical Association of Kenya for timely training of field officers whom she described as competent in Spraying farms in the wake of such outbreaks of Africa Army Worm invasions, adding that her department has put the field officers on a soldier alert for available control measures including and not limited to Spraying the farms under attack.
The Busia County Minister for Agriculture Dr. Moses Osia nonetheless, cautioned farmers to be vigilant and carry out daily spot check of their farms and report any unusual occurrence on their crops. He appealed to farmer to collaborate with field officers for efficiency and upto date surveillance for rapid response mechanism to contain the Worm.
However, the effects of climate contributes immensely to the rapid multiplication of Africa Army Worm, hence providing enabling environment for the pest predator to unleash havoc on farms. In an exclusive interview with Africa Science News in her office in Busia, Mukhongo who is the chief officer, department of Agriculture confirmed that extreme (Dry and warm) weather is a predisposing factor for African Army Worm to survive.
Mukhongo said this owes to the fact that farmers in Western Kenya planted their farm during hot season, thus giving the caterpillars fodder to invade farms, threatening not only food security, but economy in general, and giving leeway to poverty.
Dr. Osia contented that so far there is no cause for alarm as the department in collaboration with other stakeholders are putting the best foot forward to manage the pest and assured farmers not to despair and lose hopes in the farms, but instead redouble their scope of farmland to ensure food sufficiency now that the country is headed for general election later this year.
So far, the department of Agriculture has not collected sufficient data on the scope of invasion in terms of acreage, but challenged farmers to work in clusters for easy administration of Spraying. 1litre of chemical can spray 8acres.
Mukhongo either downplayed administration of traditional control methods in the quest to contain the Worm and encouraged farmers to opt for scientific methods approach of certified chemical Spraying for good results. Traditional ways include use of Ash, smashed liquid from leaves among others.
“We are upbeat that with onset of heavy rains in the region, the African Army Worm will disappear into the soil and the affected crops will resume normalcy for better yield” concluded Mukhongo who at the same time challenged humanity against extreme activities that catalyse effects of climate change both locally and Internationally. Global emissions resulting into global warming are as result of human activities causing climate change.