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March 22, 2018

Worm invasion feared as maize planting starts

Kakamega Deputy Governor Philip Kutima (second from right) with county officials during a trade fair in Mumias on Tuesday / BRIAN KISANJI
Kakamega Deputy Governor Philip Kutima (second from right) with county officials during a trade fair in Mumias on Tuesday / BRIAN KISANJI

The Kakamega government has reassured farmers it will tackle fall armyworm that ravaged 12,000 acres of maize last year.

Some farmers are skeptical as they start the planting season. “We are afraid of even planting, as the worms may come back and attack our crop,” farmer Clement Waswa said on Wednesday.

The farmers want the county government, through the Agriculture department, to recommend and supply efficient pesticides. “Last season we used conventional methods, such as sprinkling our crops with ash, because we could not afford pesticides,” Waswa said.

Agriculture executive Philip Kutima on Tuesday said the county has an emergency fund to fight the pest. He did not say how much has been set aside. “Last season we used more than Sh30 million to fight the worm,” he said.

At least 12,355 acres of maize in Kakamega county were ravaged by fall armyworm during the short rains season in August-December last year.

2.5m bags harvested

The armyworm was first reported in the Western region in April 2017, before it rapidly spread to other parts of the country.

Even with the infestation, Kakamega farmers harvested 2.5 million bags in 2017, up from 2.1 million bags in 2016. “We are targeting more than three million bags as we move towards enhancing food security,” Kutima said. Experts say the pest could easily have been eliminated if farmers were educated and given pesticide for early spraying.

Kutima said the county will hire more extension officers to help farmers in case of an infestation. He urged agricultural extension officers in every subcounty to monitor farms to ensure the worm is detected and contained early. 

“Agriculture is our number one priority and as it’s our economic backbone,” Kutima said.

He said they will supply fertiliser to farmers at Sh1,800 per 50kg bag, which is half the market price. The county will also supply maize seeds at Sh200 for 2kg packet.

Seed companies have been advised to sell quality seeds that are resistant to diseases and mature fast.

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