Kenya to spend US$1 million to guard against fall armyworm

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The Kenyan government said Wednesday that it would spend 1 million U.S. dollars to finance efforts to tame the spread of fall armyworm, amid fears the new pest could spread into the country from Uganda.

Department of Agriculture Principal Secretary Richard Lesiyampe confirmed that the government, aware of the emergence of the pest in Uganda last month, had employed precautions measures.

“We have so far employed safety events so that once it is identified in Kenya it will be easier to deal with it,” Lesiyampe said by telephone in Nairobi.

The PS also confirmed that the government had deployed surveillance teams along Kenya-Uganda border to monitor any possibility of the new worm.

Lesiyampe added that the government is working with international players and other agricultural value chain players with a view to combining efforts to tame the spread of the pest.

Fall armyworm (FAW), native to the Americas, is a new pest to the African continent. It is capable of decimating crops like maize if not curbed.

Last week, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) expressed concern that the pest which has been confirmed in Uganda could find its way in Kenya and destroy maize crops for the coming long rain season.

Stephen Mugo, a principal scientist and a maize breeder with CIMMYT, explained that the worm can destroy the whole long rain season crop if not tamed.

“This is because the weather patterns in Africa are very conducive for the FAW. Unlike other tropics that experience extreme seasons like winter that break the cycle of the pest, African farmers plant and harvest cereals throughout the year,” said Mugo.

“The invasive species has been known to cause 100-percent damage especially on the maize crop which is the main staple food in Keny,” Mugo said.

Mugo said the new worm has compounded challenges Africa is grappling with currently.

The region is already struggling with severe drought which has affected millions of people in many countries including Kenya where about 3 million people are facing starvation.

FAW was first spotted in Africa last year across pockets of West Africa before extensively invading farmer’s fields in Southern Africa region. It has also been identified in parts of Togo, Nigeria and Uganda. Enditem

Source: David Musyoka and Kaburo Njoroge, Xinhua/NewsGhana.com.gh

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