TRANS NZOIA COUNTY. Trans Nzoia County Governor Patrick Khaemba has raised a red flag over a new deadly worm that has been reported to be attacking maize in the County and threatening to wipe out the entire maize crop in the region.
Addressing journalists in his office in Kitale, Khaemba said that the new worm known as Fall armyworm has been reported in various parts of the County including Kiminini, Saboti, and Endebes, whereby over 500 hectares of maize are already under attack by the worm that has a capacity of destroying the maize crop at all stages at a very high pace.
Due to the deadly threat to the maize crop and the magnitude of the looming destruction, Governor Khaemba has therefore called upon the national government through President Uhuru Kenyatta to declare the worm attack a national disaster. This will draw the attention of all stakeholders both from government, private and public institutions, and international bodies to come on board to help fight the worm that also threatens the country’s food security.
“Where we stand now we are asking the national government to declare the invasion of the army worm a national disaster and declare it an emergency because it can wipe out up to 100 percent of the food crop in the farm and we have confirmed that up to 500 hectares of maize crop in Trans Nzoia have been affected by the pest,” said Governor Khaemba.
The Governor said that the worm, which has set its effects on Africa for the first time, came from America and found its way to Africa through Nigeria and spread to other African countries including Zambia, South Africa, and has finally reached Kenya.
“The Fall army worm is new in Africa and it attacks maize fields at all stages, that is after you’ve planted, after germination, after knee-high length, and even at tussling and spreads very fast,” added the county boss.
He said that in the early stages it is very devastating but when it becomes a moth it can travel for 30 kilometers in a day hence it can spread from one farm to another or one location to another within a very short period where it can lay eggs immediately and within a few days the caterpillars will be devastating the maize crop or any other crops in the farms.
Khaemba noted that the 500 hectares affected were reported last week and therefore the figures might have now gone up bearing in mind the high rate of the worm’s spread and multiplication.
“I have had my teams and teams from the national government out there in the fields and we have confirmed that over 500 hectares of maize have been invaded by the pest and mark you these are figures of last week,” he added.
The Governor further said that by virtue that the worm is new in the country, most farmers don’t immediately notice the worm, because it comes like stoke borers or cutworms.
The lifespan of the worm is 30 days and can spread quickly during dry seasons unlike during the heavy rainy season hence the Governor says that the current weather is favourable to the worm due to the lack of rains.
Synchronised aerial spray of all farms
Khaemba revealed that to contain the armyworm there ought to be a synchronised spray of all farms in the county as opposed to individual farm sprays that might do little or no substantial effect on the pest.
“To contain this armyworm we need to synchronise the spraying of the farms completely by spraying all the farms at ago because by spraying a few farms and leaving out others might not do much in containing the worm because the moths from the farms that have not been sprayed especially small scale farms will still spread to the sprayed farms,” he said.
Governor Khaemba further noted that the notorious worm is also resistant to the normal chemicals used by farmers to fight the other worms and pests hence can only be fought by specific new chemicals that he said are very expensive and most farmers cannot afford to buy the chemicals.
He noted that one litre of the required chemicals costs over Kshs 20,000 though it can spray up to ten acres of maize.
According to the Governor, the county requires a lot of support from the national government and other stakeholders to manage the required massive aerial spray of the farms hence more resources should be mobilized at county and national level to curb the spread of the pest.
Over Kshs 80 million needed for spray of farms in county
The Governor said that millions of shillings are needed to enable the massive spray of the farms and also to sensitize farmers among other logistics that the county cannot manage on its own.
He said that the county government through his cabinet deliberated on the matter and passed an emergency budget of Kshs 45 million out of an estimated budget of over Kshs 80 million required.
However, the Governor who was accompanied by a section of his CECs, revealed that Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett is expected to tour the County soon to assess the situation and announce plans and mechanisms being put in place by the government to curb and contain the pest that is also said to have been discovered in other parts including Kisii.
The Governor’s alarm comes a few days after Kenya Seed company managing director Azariah Soi first mentioned about the pest and called upon county governments to come in handy to fight the worm.