Life behind bars for spreading maize disease in Kisii

Kisii County is preparing a Bill that seeks to jail or fine traders Sh2 million for abetting the spread of a maize disease that continues to ravage the region.

The Plant Health Bill 2014 that was drafted by county executive for agriculture Vincent Rioba seeks to regulate the movement of maize among other crops in and out of the county.

The Bill proposes a jail term of up to six years for a person who knowingly introduces a pest or disease into cultivated land.

It creates the position of a county plant inspector who will be charged with checking the movement of plants within the county.

The maize lethal necrotic disease is reported to have infected most parts of Kisii County. In a recent survey conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture, 4,564 acres of maize were reported to have been affected, especially in Borabu and Masaba regions.

The Kenya Seed Company says the infection is caused by a combination of the sugarcane mosaic virus and the chlorotic mottle virus, which make the maize plants to wither and wilt before maturity.

It was first reported in Lower Longisa division of Bomet in September 2011. Later it spread to the neighbouring Sotik, Konoin, Chepalungu, Transmara, Kisii, Bureti, and Kericho, Kenya Seed says in an undated notice to farmers.

“Although our research institutions were quick to act by identifying the disease and even advising on the necessary  control measures, not much information was passed on to the farmers on how they could have stopped it from spreading,” reads the notice.

Mr Rioba says plants attacked by the disease appear weak, start shrinking while leaves turning yellowish and eventually dry and fall off.

Farmers are advised to burn any crop infected by the disease as well as practise rotate maize with non-cereals such as potatoes, beans, onions and other vegetables.

People whose crops get infected without their knowledge are offered a reprieve by the Bill for it allows for compensation if one’s crops are destroyed for infection.