KENYA – African Armyworm, a destructive pest, has resurfaced in six Eastern African countries, including Kenya, prompting an alert from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The alert comes after a recent study  conducted by scientists from the University of Minnesota’s GEMS Informatics Center, and CABI’s Dr. Roger Day, Global Advisor, Plant Health that indicated that fall army warms (Spodoptera frugiperda) continue to endanger the majority of Africa’s maize crops.

In the publication,  the researchers highlighted that most of the African maize crop is grown in areas with climatic conditions that support seasonal infestation of the pest, indicating that almost 92% of Africa’s maize-growing areas support the year-round growth of fall armyworms. 

According to FAO, the African Armyworm has already invaded 23 counties in Kenya, striking regions that are still recovering from drought and the recent Desert Locust invasion.

FAO Country Director, Carla Mucavi, attributed the resurgence of this pest to climate change, highlighting that the prevailing weather conditions are highly favorable for its breeding.

The six countries currently grappling with the African Armyworm outbreak are Kenya, Eretria, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Uganda.

Early this year, the worm descended on farmlands in Uganda destroying 2,024.02 square miles (524,000 hectares) in Nakaseke District, Uganda.

Recognizing the severity of the situation, the FAO has allocated USD 500,000 to train agriculture extension officers and provide them with the necessary equipment to combat the pest.

During the launch of the African Armyworm management project in Naivasha, Mucavi emphasized that this pest poses a major threat to food and nutrition security in the region. Immediate action is crucial to mitigate its impact on agricultural production and safeguard the availability of food.

Collaboration between government and FAO

Joseph Kirubi, the Secretary-Administration in the Ministry of Agriculture, acknowledged the government’s collaboration with the FAO in addressing the African Armyworm infestation.

With 23 counties already affected, ongoing efforts aim to prevent further spread of the pest and minimize its impact on agricultural activities

Collins Marangu, the Director of Plant Protection and Food Safety, highlighted cereals as the crops most affected by the African Armyworm. The destructive nature of this pest threatens the livelihoods of farmers and jeopardizes food supplies in the affected areas.

Risper Chepkonga, the CEC for Agriculture in Baringo County, expressed gratitude for the support provided by the FAO.

She noted that their assistance has been instrumental in containing the spread of the African Armyworm within the county. However, sustained efforts and resources are needed to effectively combat this resurgence and protect agricultural productivity.

Efforts are underway to share knowledge and coordinate responses among affected countries, with the aim of developing sustainable and integrated pest management strategies.

Additionally, research institutions and agricultural organizations are collaborating to better understand the impact of climate change on pest outbreaks and develop resilient farming practices to mitigate future risks.

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