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Curb threat to maize crop



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The warning by the Ministry of Agriculture of another Fall army worm invasion in the food basket region of the North Rift is bad news, indeed, coming at a time when farmers are preparing to plant this season’s crop. This pest is so destructive that it pains to imagine that the efforts farmers are making now could just go down the drain.

It will be recalled that farmers lost nearly half their crop, worth a whopping Sh3 billion, in last year’s army worm infestation. This meant depriving families of food and denying farmers income. According to experts in the ministry, 250 hectares of the crop was ravaged in this first invasion in the country. It reduced the maize yield by three million bags, worth Sh3 billion.

It is, therefore, encouraging to note that the ministry has already sent out an alert. That the army worm poses a grave threat to food security is evident in its fast spread across the country. After being sighted in western Kenya, it quickly spread to some 43 counties with the little pest’s voracious appetite spelling doom for farmers and the entire country.

Quite reassuring, however, is the report the ministry has released this month on the status of national food security, in which it is upbeat about the response to the threat. The ministry is happy about the enhanced pest management capacity.

Maize is the staple food for about 80 per cent of the population, including urban dwellers. The country produces about 40 million 90kg bags of maize in a good year, with the consumption estimated at 30 million bags. Should this pest alone destroy half of the production, the country will be staring at a crisis.

The early warning provides an opportunity for a comprehensive intervention to forestall the grave threat.