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Fighting fall armyworms organically

Home-made solutions extracted from plants are cheaper and more environmentally friendly than synthetic ones bought from agro-chemists

Milliam Murigi @millymur1

The invasion by the fall armyworm (FAW) in Kenya continues unabated, threatening this year’s maize crop in several counties. The worm (Spodoptera frugiperda) has spread to the more than 12 counties so far, with Murang’a and Embu being the latest to be hit. Trans Nzoia, Bungoma, Kakamega, Uasin Gishu, Nandi, Kericho, Baringo, Nakuru and Busia were infested with the pest from last year.

The worm has spread to Central Kenya just after the maize and other crops have exploded in green livery. According to World Vision Kenya, due to reduced rains, increased temperatures provide ideal conditions for the rapid multiplication of the fall armyworm and other pests, such as African armyworm. As usual, farmers have rushed to buy chemicals to control the pest.

The government, through the Ministry of Agriculture and in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organis (Fao), last month signed a technical cooperation programme worth Sh50 million to be used in the control of the armyworms.

Despite all this, few pesticides available in the market are 100 per cent effective. Most of them have the ability to kill larvae, but not the eggs. The eggs, therefore, hatch after a few days and the larva continue to damage the crop, making it difficult to control the pest.

However, farmers from the affected counties have discovered that organic control methods are much more effective in control of the worms. Organisations such as Greenpeace have also started training people on ecological pest management, a type of farm management that encourages use of organic pesticides and manure.

“Ecological pest management enables farmers to control pests and weeds without use of expensive chemical pesticides. Such chemicals often harm soils, water and ecosystems and the health of farmers and consumers,” said Claire Nasike, a Greenpeace Africa trainer who is also a farmer. Nasike said she has tried homemade pesticides and the result is fantastic.

Also one has powers to increase or reduce the amount applied after seeing the outcome, unlike chemical pesticides, which you have to follow the instructions. Another farmer, Fridah Kavetsa from Mushiega village in Vihiga county was surprised when she first noticed the strange worm, which was destroying her maize faster than other armyworms.

After consulting extension officers, she learnt it was Faw but since she didn’t have enough money to buy chemicals, she went back home prepared ash and bought chilly powder. After applying the solution, the pest disappeared and other farmers from the neighbourhood have emulated her.

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