The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has helped Kenyan farmers reduce maize losses due to Fall Armyworm menace by training them on how to control the pest thereby saving 88.5 per cent of the projected harvest.
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.
In 2017, FAO initiated a pilot project where specially trained scouts were sent to farmers’ fields in Embu to monitor the crops.
In this, the scouts helped farmers manually control FAW by identifying the eggs and larvae then destroying them by hand.
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Agnes Waitherea Muli, a farmer in Embu County says FAO scouts were able to help her monitor her crops twice a week for six weeks thereby saving her crops.
A FAO scout (rght) explaining how to control FAW to farmer in Embu. Photo/FAO
“Last year I lost more than three quarters of my maize due to the FAW, but I am expecting the losses to reduce this harvest season,” said Agnes.
Agnes and her husband have a one acre piece of land which they have sub-divided into several pieces and have so far saved crops in a quarter acre piece of land with more land under monitoring.
Salesia Mugo is also another beneficiary farmer from the mechanical control of FAW with the help of FAO scouts.
“I now expect to harvest at least four bags of 90kg maize up from two he harvested last season,” said, Mugo.
In May, FAO launched a mobile app to combat the fall armyworm menace that has been reported in 44 out of 54 Sub-Saharan African countries.
The app which runs android smartphones according to FAO will help farmers, researchers and donors better understand the threat posed by the pest.
With the app, farmers can check for the level of infestations in their farm by examining 10 plants in a row in different locations of their farm. In this, the app would enable them mark whether or not the fall armyworm larvae is present in their crops.
The sample data collected will then be uploaded to FAO’s servers where it can be analyzed by researchers, said Keith Cressman, the lead person who developed the app.
A majority of farmers in Kenya may be able to use the app as the latest report released in March 2018 by e-commerce company Jumia shows that the country has a high adoption rate of smart phones in Africa with the internet penetration at 83 per cent.
In Kenya, 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.
The initial affected counties were Busia, Uasin Gishu, Trans Nzoia, Bungoma, Bungoma and Nandi. By the end of the year 2017, the pest had ravaged approximately 800,000 hectares of crops leading to losses of Sh26.7bn.