Taita-Taveta farmers fret over armyworm invasion

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By DANIEL NYASSY
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Fear has gripped farmers in Taita-Taveta County following the invasion of armyworms that are sweeping across farms eating and clearing anything green.

A team of experts has been dispatched to the affected areas of Njukini and Challa in the agriculturally rich Kasigau-Maktau belt.

Governor John Mruttu has ordered the county agriculture department to work with experts to exterminate the dangerous pests that can cause havoc on agriculture.

“They have to be killed before they can lay eggs because if that stage reaches, it will be more difficult to deal with them,” said Mr Mruttu at an interview with the Nation Online in his Wundanyi office.

The armyworms are part of an outbreak in the African continent and those in Taita Taveta are part of the South-North exodus.

“They can cause disaster given that the farmers have just planted following a long spell of drought. Armyworms are known to clear whole plantations with the result of great famine,” said the governor.

The county team on the ground is equipped with the necessary spray and other chemicals that will not affect crops, he said.

Mr Mruttu feared that if the insects spread to national parks, vegetation will be completely cleared and this could drive wild animals straying to the local farms, posing another threat.

Some of the army worms that have invaded farms in Taita-Taveta County destroying crops. PHOTO | DANIEL NYASSY | NMG

Some of the army worms that have invaded farms in Taita-Taveta County destroying crops. PHOTO | DANIEL NYASSY | NMG

He indicated the possibility of working closely with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to deal with the threat “if the need arises”.

The pests invaded farms in Lunga Lunga in Kwale County in early March and were said to have spread to Shimba Hills, which is the county’s food basket.

According to the Kwale County Director of Agriculture David Wanjala, the pests clear all crops from sorghum, rice, maize and resort to grass after wiping out farms. If not tackled early enough, the pests could spell doom.

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