The latest warning that another destructive worm could invade the farms this year is worrying. This is because it comes barely a year after armyworms destroyed an estimated 250,000 hectares of maize farms, leaving the country with a huge food deficit.
The attacks signal another round of costly importation of the staple grain that drives up prices, making it difficult for many households to feed themselves. Although the insect has been reported in Benin, Cameroon, Gabon and Nigeria, the possibilities of reaching here are real and will require concerted efforts by authorities to manage.
Besides maize, the pest is known to attack drought-resistant crops such as broccoli, cassava, potatoes and amaranth. The fall armyworm feeds on key crops such as rice, sorghum, millet, sugarcane, vegetables, and cotton. A combination of the two pests would seriously undermine efforts to ensure year-round food security, leaving the country vulnerable.
This is the reason Agriculture secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri’s promise to set aside Sh300 million for the fight against the worm and later increase the amount to Sh1 billion is a step in the right direction.
Kenya is no doubt in need of proactive measures to keep such deadly pests at bay.