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Enhancing the fight against Fall Armyworm in Kenya

14/11/2017

Nairobi – Boosting fall armyworm detection and control through FAO’s Technical Support.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the government of Kenya through a Technical Cooperation Project (TCP) have introduced standardized and farmer-friendly fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) control traps which will be used in at least eighty Kenyan villages.  Part of the strategy will target the training of at least two farmer in each participating village. 

Kenya is also a beneficiary of the Community Based Fall Armyworm Monitoring, Forecasting and Early Warning Project, covering six countries that is funded by USAID's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA). The project isto be implemented in 2017 to 2020 crop seasons. The initiative has so far supported provision of moth traps and about 3,000 fall armyworm (FAW) sex pheromone lures, and training of 400 lead farmers as monitors. The monitors will send out messages for management actions.

FAO handed over close to 500 FAW pheromone traps to the government that will ensure affected rural communities can learn to effectively monitor the situation of FAW their respective localities.  This will facilitate timely and effective control actions for armyworms to minimize and avoid crop losses.

The handing over ceremony was officiated by the Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Hon. Willy Bett who acknowledged that while the situation was not dire, the next season presented a chance for the government to act. Close to 6-7 million bags of maize are estimated to have been lost in the last season, which saw further food losses due to drought in the region.

The government has identified several integrated options such as responsible use of chemical pesticides and bio-pesticides.

“Each chemical manufacturer was presenting their type of chemical and saying it works against the FAW, which now became a commercial venture.  We restricted and came up with some of the probable chemicals which would help in fighting the army worm.  We also know that farmers on the other side were also applying all techniques including traditional techniques to fight the fall army worm”, he said, while receiving the equipment.

The activities will be boosted by the TCP which will support scaling-up of several FAW management options, harmonization of awareness and training materials targeting farmers and extension service providers at the Counties.  The TCP agreement worth US $500,000 is expected to ensure an effective monitoring system is in place and will aid in early detection and rapid containment of the pest.  The government is seeking a further 22.2 million US dollars to implement an effective and holistic FAW strategy.

The Technical Cooperation Programme in “Support of vulnerable maize farmers affected by Fall Armyworm in Kenya” is assisting the Government of Kenya to provide technical and emergency interventions.  It specifically assists in rapidly building capacities of small scale farmers on the safe use and handling of the pesticides, adoption and scale-up of Integrated Pest Management principles and public awareness education and training materials for extension service providers, farmers and stakeholders.

The Fall army worm or Spodoptera kits are part of the overall management and control strategy.  This coordinated sub-regional emergency response to FAW seeks to build on the success of a similar approach used for the African Armyworm (Spodoptera exempta) in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania, and will strengthen and complement FAW control actions at country level.  The pheromone traps will be used for practical training and given to farmers based on a community-based FAW training manual. The key areas of focus in the training of farmer monitors will be the nature and functioning of traps; site selection for the use of kits; installation of the traps and the lures, including proper management of the trap and accessories; identification of the target insect in comparison to other moth pests that could be encountered; collection of GPS data for the various trapping sites.

Government Response

The pest was first reported in February/March 2017 in Western Kenya and has rapidly spread to all the maize growing areas in Kenya causing significant economic damage to maize, the country’s staple. The pest has enormous potential to further spread to other crops, threatening the livelihoods of vulnerable maize farmers and economic damage.

In April 2017, the Government of Kenya, in response to the rapid spread of the pest, established a multi-institutional FAW Technical Working Group.  FAO was tasked to advise the government on strategic interventions to halt further spread and damage.

FAW feeds on more than 80 species of crops with a preference for maize and can reduce yields by up to 80 per cent.  The mitigation of crop losses to maize, sorghum, rice and sugarcane through such an effective community-based management intervention could aid in meeting the food, nutritional, and income security needs of millions of people across eastern Africa.  The invasion is part of the broader food security challenges facing the country after drought owing to three failed rain seasons.  Current heavy rains in Kenya’s maize growing areas could also lead to considerable post-harvest losses due to a high potential of ready to harvest maize rotting in the fields.

Related Links

Briefing note on FAO Actions on Fall armyworm in Africa 

FOOD CHAIN CRISIS

Contact:

Ruth Lehmann |Communications Specialist | FAO-Kenya | Email: Ruth.Lehmann@fao.org