RWANDA – The Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Board (RAB), in collaboration with districts, has initiated a comprehensive battle against fall armyworms (FAW) jeopardizing Agriculture Season A.

This comes as maize farmers nationwide have expressed concerns as the armyworms exhibit resistance to conventional pesticides.

Therefore, interventions aimed at educating farmers on pest management have been launched in response to reports indicating the imminent threat of fall armyworms affecting the Agriculture Season A harvest.

Fall armyworm, a destructive insect pest, poses a significant threat to over 80 crop species, including maize, rice, sorghum, and legumes.

Musanze district has emerged as one of the severely affected areas, prompting a recent campaign covering 72 hectares in the wetland of Busogwesector, Nyanza district.

“We are concentrating on areas with minimal rainfall, distributing pesticides under subsidies,” Patrick Kajyambere, the Vice Mayor in charge of economic development in Nyanza district said.

On his part, Athanase Hategekimana, a scientist spearheading crop disease and pest control at RAB, emphasized the importance of providing farmers with both subsidized fertilizers (urea) and pesticides as well as educating them on other strategies to fight the FAW invasion.

“The battle against fall armyworms has commenced in Gicumbi, Nyanza, Nyagatare, Gicumbi, Burera, Rubavu, and Gisagara, with plans to extend to all districts,” affirms Hategekimana.

The Twizamure Cyuve farmers’ cooperative, cultivating maize on 75 hectares in the Cyuve sector, Musanze district, reports devastating attacks on their maize plantations.

Farmers reported that after planting Hybrid 628 maize seeds, while the crops initially thrived, they were later attacked by armyworms during weeding.

“Leaves are damaged, and optimism for a good harvest is diminishing. We urgently need effective pesticides,” Gloriose Nyirabariha, a distressed farmer said.

Push-pull technology deployed against Armyworms

Hategekimana said they have introduced ‘push-pull technology,’ an integrated cropping system involving a repellent intercrop to drive pests away from the main crop.

According to him, RAB is collaborating with the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology-icipe to promote the push-pull technique, highlighting its successful trials in Nyanze, Gatsibo, Nyagatare, Gicumbi, Musanze, Ngororero, and Rubavu districts.

Biological Control Agents and GMO Seeds Considered

The government has previously explored biological control agents (parasitoids) to contain fall armyworms, collaborating with the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) since December 2022.

RAB, in conjunction with Food for the Hungry, introduced this approach in Kamonyi, Muhanga, Ruhango, Gatsibo, Nyagatare, and Ngororero districts.

These parasitoids, previously effective in Kenya and Tanzania, lay eggs into fall armyworms’ eggs, hindering reproduction and averting crop damage.

RAB plans to multiply parasitoids in laboratories, conducting confined trials before widespread deployment.

Agricultural scientists are also advocating for genetically modified organism (GMO) seeds, exemplified by the Tela maize variety, designed to withstand drought, stemborer, and fall armyworm, promising enhanced crop immunity while ensuring safety for human consumption.