By Bedah Mengo
NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
Kenya’s food security situation faces a fresh
threat as armyworms invade maize farms in different parts of the
east African nation.
The country is currently grappling
with a serious food crisis mainly caused by poor rains that has
seen prices rise considerably, with a 2kg tin of dry maize going
for a record 1.4 U.S. dollars.
In mitigation, the government has allowed millers and traders
to import the staple from as far as Mexico tax-free in a bid to
bring down the cost of the produce consumed by millions.
The armyworms invasion, therefore, spells a huge trouble for
East African’s citizens, who consume up to 4 million bags of
maize every month, according to the Ministry of Agriculture,
with the country producing only 40 million bags annually.
Farmers in various parts of the country, especially where
maize is grown, have reported armyworm infestation, with many
calling for help as thousands of the insects feast on their
The worms have been sighted in Trans Nzoia, Nakuru and Uasin
Gishu in Rift Valley, Kakamega and Bungoma in Western Kenya, and
Kwale at the Coast.
Apart from maize, also under threat are sorghum, millet and
wheat farmers, with experts noting that the deadly pest further
poses danger to the livestock sector as it attacks pasture and
any green vegetation.
"I planted maize on three acres over a month ago and right
now it has been infested by the armyworms when it just had eight
leaves," Samuel Ambuche, a farmer in Bungoma, said Thursday.
The farmer said the pests had devastated his crops leaving
only a skeletal that would not germinate despite his constant
application of pesticides.
"I planted just when the rains started.
"I had ploughed my land in January, bought fertilizer and
seeds in readiness for planting.
"The rains came in early March.
"Though they were not plenty, my aim was to plant early so
that I can maximize on the rains but now this has happened," he
According to him, he has spent about 150 U.S. dollars on
pesticide application since he started applying in vain.
"Only a small section of my maize now remains.
"We reported the invasion to Ministry of Agriculture but we
are yet to get concrete help.
"Each farmer is trying to eradicate them on their own but it
is not possible if efforts are not co-ordinated."
The current outbreak in Kenya, according to agricultural
experts, is linked to recent invasions on maize in Malawi,
Zambia and South Africa, where the worms attacked crops on
thousands of acres.
The Ministry of Agriculture last month notified its county
directors of agriculture of the outbreak, but efforts to begin
widespread curbing of the pests are yet to start.
The pests, according to the UN agency Food and Agriculture
Organization, was first detected in Africa in Nigeria in January
last year and has spread in Botswana, Congo, Tanzania, Ghana,
Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Swaziland, Togo and Uganda.
There are four kinds of armyworms namely African armyworm,
Common armyworm, Fall armyworm and Lawn armyworm. The Fall
armyworm is the one that has invaded Kenyan farms.
"The disease is a huge threat to food security because Kenya
relies on maize, which the armyworms are currently destroying.
"With each citizen eating 104kg of maize every year, demand
for maize is huge but we will certainly not meet it this year
due to the pests and ongoing drought," said Bernard Moina, an
agricultural extension officer in Kitale, one of the affected