Govt raises alarm on fall armyworms

01Feb 2018
Polycarp Machira
The Guardian
Govt raises alarm on fall armyworms

THERE is a looming nationwide invasion of fall armyworm (FAW), the government has warned, noting that the pest poses serious threat to food production in the country.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mathew Mtigumwe said here yesterday that there are reports of possible invasion by the pest from almost every region in the country.

While stating that the government and other stakeholders are working hard to contain the condition, he noted that the situation is likely to worsen what the country has experienced in the recent past.

“We have received reports from several districts in the country and officials of the ministry of serious fall armyworm attack this crop production season,” he said.

He stated that the ministry continues to monitor the threat posed by the fall armyworm outbreak in the country, noting that besides, it has deployed agricultural experts to educate farmers on how to fight the worms and has also bought and distributed pesticides.

 Mtigumwe said that the potential of FAW to cause serious damage and yield losses is alarming. “The Government takes the matter very seriously and support by FAO will add to ongoing efforts to control the menace,” he elaborated.

So far the FAW invasion has been reported in Rukwa, Kagera, Coast, Geita, Simiyu, Mwanza, Morogoro, Kilimanjaro and Njombe regions.

The PS made the remarks during an event to sign a cooperation agreement between the ministry and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) that aims to support national surveillance and management capacity to respond efficiently to the worms invading the country.

The agreement comes at a time when the fall armyworm invasion has been reported in several parts of the country, destroying crops mainly maize and paddy and thereby posing a threat to food security in many areas.

Mtigumwe described the agreement as timely, coming at a time when the Government was taking measures to contain the invasion.

Through the agreement, FAO will provide technical and financial support worth $ 250,000  (over Sh 550 million) to strengthen surveillance and raise awareness on the pest before and during the next farming seasons.

The response will involve different stakeholders from local and regional governments, academia, research institutes and the Disaster Management Department in the Prime Minister’s Office.

The FAO Country Representative, Fred Kafeero, affirmed that the organization was already working with governments in southern Africa to control the damage caused by the pest.

“Fall armyworm is a new threat in southern Africa and we are very concerned with its emergence, intensity and spread,” said Kafeero, noting that it was only a matter of time before most of the region is affected, and the costs and implications of this situationcould be very high.

He urged an efficient surveillance system that will enable the government, FAO and other development partners to mount a coordinated response to this threat.

FAO works closely with the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), the African Union (AU) and other partners to implement the necessary assessment interventions to improve understanding on the extent and intensity of the fall armyworm threat to the region.

In September last year, FAO handed over 216 pheromone traps to the Ministry of Agriculture to be used for the surveillance of fall armyworm (FAW) infestation in the country. It would help determine the gravity of the problem and provide information necessary for designing interventions.

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