The Kenyan ministry of agriculture has launched an SMS (short message service) platform to enable farmers countrywide to receive Fall Armyworm alerts directly on their mobile phones without necessarily seeking the information from government offices.
The platform was developed by Precision Agriculture for Development in collaboration with Safaricom, Kenya’s telecommunication company, and allows farmers to send messages to 40130.
In this, farmers will receive timely information on monitoring, identification, non-chemical and chemical control measures including best practices for free.
The platform has been piloted in Western Kenya where 1.4m Safaricom users have been invited to start using it.
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Farmers spraying maize to control Fall Armyworm menace. Photo: courtesy
The Fall Armyworm was first detected in Western Kenya in March 2017 and was confirmed by the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization and the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service
Over 800,000 hectares of crops mainly maize was affected and destroyed by the pest last year in Kenya’s bread basket of Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Nandi, Busia, Kakamega, Kericho, Nandi, Bomet, Narok, West Pokot, Siaya, Kwale and counties in the central region.
As a result, maize production dropped from 37m bags in 2016 to 32m bags in 2017 according to statistics from the ministry of agriculture.
A research body, the Center for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI) has warned that the African continent stands to lose between eight and 20m tonnes of maize in 2018 if the pest is not properly managed.
The pest feeds on more than 80 crops, but prefers maize and can cut yields by up to 60 per cent. The female lays up to 1,000 eggs in her lifetime and can fly 100km per night.