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Economy

State shifts armyworm control to governors

The armyworms cut maize production by nearly five million bags last year. FILE PHOTO | NMG
The armyworms cut maize production by nearly five million bags last year. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The government has shifted the responsibility of dealing with armyworms to counties as the destructive crop-eating caterpillars once again threatens to hurt the maize crop.

Director of Crops in the Ministry of Agriculture Johnson Irungu says disease and pest control is the role of county governments because the function was devolved.

Dr Irungu said the national government can only intervene when the devolved units are overwhelmed by the menace.

“Pest and disease control remains a county function, however, the national government can only intervene when the counties have been overwhelmed,” said Dr Irungu.

The comments come at a time when Armyworms are invading farms in Uasin Gishu, Trans Nzoia and parts of South Rift, heightening panic among maize farmers.

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Last week, farmers in Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Embu and Meru counties raised alarm over return of the fall armyworm.

The armyworms cut maize production by nearly five million bags last year, hurting farmers’ earnings by as much as Sh16 billion and has kept the cost of staple flour at above Sh100 for the two kilogramme packet.

Dr Irungu said the government is aware of the re-emergence of the armyworms and that the ministry is monitoring the situation closely.

Last year the government released Sh300 million to fight the fall armyworm, money which was given to affected counties to buy chemicals and  materials to contain the insects.

Kenya received Sh50 million from the Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO) last year to boost the fight against the worms.  The funds were used to buy traps to be placed in breeding grounds of the deadly insects as well as for community monitoring.

The Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) will receive Sh300 million during the ongoing planting season to lead the war on fall armyworms, which were reported in the country for the first time last year. 

Kalro said it will release a guide on the list of chemicals that have been tested and can be used by farmers to control  armyworm.

Last week, Agriculture Chief Administrative Secretary Andrew Tuimur led a delegation of technical officers from the ministry in a meeting in Brazil that brought together officials from all countries affected by the menace.

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