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Economy

Greenpeace faults use of chemicals in worm war

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

Environmentalists are fighting to lock chemical manufacturers out of State’s lucrative fall armyworm control plan after the Agriculture Ministry warned of the return of the dreaded pests.

The environmentalists, alarmed that the millions of shillings spent on chemicals in the last season has not eradicated the pest, want the ministry to turn to ecological pest control measures.

“We cannot afford to rely on solutions that enable corporates to profit at the expense of farmers and consumers,” said Ms Claire Nasike, Greenpeace Africa’s Food for Life campaigner.

Last year, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri estimated that a total of Sh1 billion would be required to contain armyworms after it destroyed most of the maize crop across the country.

A total of Sh300 million was spent by the State directly on pesticides after the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation recommended products of Coopers, Twiga Chemicals and Orbit Chemical Industries to be used in the campaign.

In a food report released by the Agriculture Ministry early this month, the government warned of another armyworm outbreak. “Climate change and a broken food system will continue to open the door to fall armyworm,” Ms Nasike said in a statement released on Friday.

“In less than three years, the impact of the fall armyworm has been felt not just across Kenya but in Africa as a whole. Since many regions in the country are already experiencing the impacts of climate-change, it is likely that there will be a recurrence of these pests.”

A study by International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (Icipe) has recommended a climate-adapted version of Push-Pull technique in controlling the worms.

A push and pull method entails intercropping maize with repellent legumes (push) while those that attract the pests are planted at the edge of the farm (to pull it out).

Greenpeace describes this method as “suitable, accessible, environmentally friendly and cost-effective strategy for managing the pest.”

“The ministry of Agriculture needs to urgently prioritise ecological farming methods which combine modern science and innovation. It should encourage farmers to use organic pesticides and techniques.”

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