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Brazil enlisted to fight armyworm invasion as infestation spreads

Agriculture minister Willy Bett (left) tours a maize farm affected by the fall arm worms in Kinyoro, Kitale last week. photo | jared nyataya
Agriculture minister Willy Bett (left) tours a maize farm affected by the fall arm worms in Kinyoro, Kitale last week. photo | jared nyataya 

The government has sought help from Brazil to fight a fall armyworm infestation that risks threatening Kenya's food security.

Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett, who made the announcement in Mombasa Thursday, said Brazil would assist with biological agents it used to fight the pest in the past.

“We also want them to play a philanthropic role by discounting the chemicals for farmers to access it. It is the first of its kind in our territory. Its uniqueness again is that when you are fighting it using chemicals, it is very difficult in the sense that it eats at night and so unless you spray at night, then you cannot hit it,” he said.

The worms have wreaked havoc on grain harvest in several counties after finding their way into the country through Uganda.



An armyworm caterpillar eating the kernels of a cob of corn. PHOTO | FILE | AFP / CABI
An armyworm caterpillar eating the kernels of a cob of corn. PHOTO | FILE | AFP / CABI

Budget changes

The minister said government is also rearranging its budget in a bid to assist vulnerable farmers gain access to the basic chemicals needed to fight the pest, adding that some farmers could not afford them.

“First of all they need to understand whether that worm is within their farm. The team is working on a communication strategy. The devastation is higher in Kitale where we launched a pamphlet which the team is using in raising awareness and outreach,” he said.

In the meantime, the Pharmacy and Poisons Board and other experts will help government identify the most efficient chemicals to deploy to farmers in the short term.

Mr Bett also urged Kenyans to diversify their food consumption as a way of securing food security.

“We are also looking at fish as an alternative food security item which is very critical. Because we are currently facing multiple challenges in the agricultural sector...we must build capacity to have alternatives and introduce them to Kenyans,” he added.

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