Fall armyworm invasion in Kenya

Kenyan farmers grapple with fall armyworm invasion.We are staring into the eyes of a disaster.Farmers in Kenya’s ‘bread basket’ region grapple with Fall Armyworm (FAW) invasion, that has destroyed 70 per cent of crops.As millions of Kenyan farmers seek to recover from the double crisis of severe drought and floods triggered by an El Niño weather phenomenon, they now face a new threat, the fall armyworm.Experts are warning that Kenya is likely to lose a total of 16 million bags of the staple crop, maize, during this year’s harvest season due to an armyworm attack.As millions of East African farmers seek to recover from a devastating drought, they face a new threat, the Fall Armyworm (FAW). The pest has been recently detected in Kenya and is suspected to have entered the country from Uganda. It is also known to be present in Burundi, Ethiopia and Rwanda. The Fall Armyworm was first reported in Western Kenya by farmers in March 2017, and immediately confirmed by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service and Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation. The initial counties infested were Busia, Trans-Nzoia, Bungoma, Uasin-Gishu and Nandi according to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for April 2017.

“An estimated, 40 percent of farms are reported to be infested with the fall armyworm. This projected figure implies that an estimated 40 percent of households and children are likely to be affected in World Vision Kenya Area Development Programme’s (ADPs) with food security.” says World Vision Kenya Interim National Director Mr. John Makoni.

The Fall Armyworm (FAW) is new in Kenya unlike the African Armyworm which has been experienced before. Even from literature review, not much is known about the pest and its effects here in Kenya because thus much research is required. The FAW has affected the grain basket of Kenya and hence can lead to serious food shortage in the country. The worm targets maize, sorghum and barley and has so far 143,000 hectares affected and anticipated to scale up to 800,000 hectares of land in major maize and wheat producing counties.

Areas affected are in Western, Eastern, Nyanza (Fall army worm) while Easter and Coast (African army worm).

“The worm is attacking crops at three to four weeks while still young and the impact is devastating. Treatment of the armyworm takes a combination of solutions required (chemical control), early warning. The worms burrow into the crop, making spraying in effective, especially during the day.”says Mr. Makoni.