KENYA – Scientists at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Institute (KALRO) are calling upon policymakers to upscale biological pest control mechanisms to tame the invasion of fall armyworms which continues to threaten the country’s food security efforts.
According to KALRO, the call follows the successful production of biological pest control measures that the institute has piloted for the past four years.
The KES 240 million (US$1.6M) project was supported by the Korea Africa Food and Agriculture Cooperation Initiative (KAFACI) funded by the Korean government for the development of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) solutions to tackle fall armyworm invasion.
Under the five-year KAFACI project which is scheduled to end next year, Kenya as part of 16 beneficiary countries managed to secure KES 15 million (US$99,000) to develop biological control measures that if adopted by farmers, will help improve yields and protect the environment.
Through the project, researchers have been able to produce biological pest control mechanisms that farmers can use as well as encourage the use of intercropping which has proven effective against fall armyworm and has seen farmers recruited in the demonstration, more than double their harvest
The invasion of fall armyworms often during planting season has been a thorn in the flesh, not only for maize farmers across the country but has also hurt efforts to secure the country’s food reserves.
KALRO is now targeting to have the practices adopted by counties in their extension services to improve maize production in the country.
So far, KALRO said, 60 farmers have been trained on the best practices to combat fall armyworms in Kenya.
In June, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced that the invasive pest has resurfaced in six Eastern African countries, including Kenya, prompting an alert.
FAO Country Director, Carla Mucavi, attributed the resurgence of this pest to climate change, highlighting that the prevailing weather conditions are highly favorable for its breeding.
Recognizing the severity of the situation, the FAO has allocated USD 500,000 to train agriculture extension officers and provide them with the necessary equipment to combat the pest.
Later, FAO selected Kenya as a pilot country to lead its research program on the fight against the fall armyworms (Spodoptera frugiperda), in the eastern African region.
Jingyuan Xia, director of the Plant Production and Protection Division at FAO intimated that Kenya was selected as a research hub for the pests given its strategic location and its great expertise in the field.
“We chose Nairobi as the center for research on these voracious pests because of its strategic location and its great expertise in the field,” Xia explained.