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Fall army worm war gets Sh812m

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The financial aid from the European Commission Directorate for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO), is aimed at strengthening Icipe’s efforts in the management of the pest. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (Icipe) will receive 7 million euros assistance to combat the Fall army worm in Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

The financial aid from the European Commission Directorate for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO), is aimed at strengthening Icipe’s efforts in the management of the pest, which is wreaking havoc in the region, aggravating a cereals shortage that has seen prices shoot up.

The Nairobi-based Icipe said in a statement that it had envisioned the development of a science-led, African-context specific sustainable integrated pest management package for the Fall army worm.

In partnership with various stakeholders, the centre has initiated a range of activities, including the capacity for early warning, rapid response and regional preparedness, as well as damage assessment across various ecological zones. Icipe’s director of research and partnership, Dr Sunday Ekesi, said efforts to control the pest through conventional methods, such as the use of insecticides, were complicated.

“This is due to the fact that the adult stage of the worm is most active at night, and infestation is only detected after damage has been done to the crop,” he said.

“The pest also has a diverse range of alternative host plants that enable its populations to persist and spread. Moreover, the Fall army worm has been shown to develop resistance to some insecticides.

“The performance of such chemicals is also hindered by limited knowledge and purchasing power of farmers, resulting in the use of low quality, and often harmful products,” said Dr Ekesi.

The pests have caused crop yield losses, with data from the Ministry of Agriculture showing that more than 250,000 hectares of farmland have been affected in the food basket counties of Uasin Gishu that has lost (8,000 hectares), Trans-Nzoia (10,000), Bungoma (31,600), Nandi (7,000) and Nakuru (48,969).

The total acreage invaded by the worm in Kenya accounts for 11 percent of the total land on which maize is cultivated.

The pest is known to mainly feed on maize, but it can also infest 100 other crops, including rice, wheat, sorghum and avocado.

As millions of East African farmers seek to recover from drought, the worm is complicating matters.

The pest is also known to be present in Burundi, Ethiopia and Rwanda.

The Fall army worm was first reported in western Kenya by farmers in March last year, and was confirmed by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service and the 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 Organisation (FAO) for April last year.

Areas affected are western, eastern, Nyanza (Fall army worm) while eastern and coast (African army worm).

Most of the smallholders say they cannot afford the cost of pesticides, as they are unable to access loans. Some have desperately resorted to applying ash on their crops.

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