Armyworm war takes food and soil scientists to Brazil


A man inspects armyworm damage in his farm. PHOTO | jared nyataya | NMG

Kenya last week sent a team of food scientists and agriculture experts to Brazil in the latest efforts aimed at taming armyworms as the planting season gets under way.

The worm destroyed more than 200,000 acres of crop in the North Rift alone last year, compromising food security.

The pest has been wreaking havoc in the last four years with little success in Kenya.
The team to Brazil will conduct studies and learn how the pest can be contained.

There are fears that the worm is becoming resistant to pesticides.

Agriculture chief administrative secretary (CAS) Andrew Tuimur who travelled with the experts on Friday said that Brazil has made impressive success in the fight against armyworms.

“We want to permanently eradicate this worm. The fight is part of a deal to strengthen President Uhuru Kenyatta’s aspirations for the success of the Big Four agenda,” said Dr Tuimur. Agricultural officers have been recruited since 2014 by the national government and posted to the 47 counties.

Dr Tuimur said that among other measures, the government is constructing dams across the country for storing irrigation water instead of relying on rain-fed agriculture.

“To address the deteriorating food situation in Kenya, the government resolved that food scientists, soil experts among other agriculture and pesticide control experts visit Brazil to study how the country has been able to record success in armyworm fight,” said Dr Tuimur, who was Agriculture principal secretary in Mr Kenyatta’s first term.
The experts are drawn from different government agencies, the CAS said.

READ: Sh300m boost in war against fall armyworms

Brazil suffered similar armyworm attack where its crops were destroyed but it was contained. “Kenya must wake up to the reality and speak out when the food situation is going out of control,” said Dr Tuimur.

The government has so far spent more than Sh370 million on fighting the armyworms but maize farmers demand more.

“We welcome the government’s intervention to eradicate this deadly worm. We incurred a lot of losses last year after we spent a lot of money on farm inputs but we received little returns,” said James Rogony, a farmer from Ziwa in Uasin Gishu County.