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Contain armyworm crisis

Saturday March 25 2017

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The plague of armyworms that has destroyed crops and ruined livelihoods across much of southern Africa is now at Kenya’s doorsteps.

On Friday, authorities in Uganda confirmed the strain of armyworm that has invaded farms in the country is the dreaded variety native to South America.

That type of pest is considered more dangerous than the African armyworm, which is more easily dealt with using available pesticides.

The danger these caterpillars pose to the capacity of populations to feed themselves cannot be overstated.

The armyworms typically attack maize, wheat, millet, all key staple foods.

In Uganda, the Agriculture ministry has already warned that the invasion of the armyworms could wipe out up to 15 per cent of the country’s maize crop, a devastating loss at a time when the whole region is struggling to cope with the effects of drought.


This is clearly a time for authorities in Kenya to take decisive measures to prepare to combat this problem if it extends to the country.

The crisis has been raging for months and contingency plans should already in place.

The leadership of the Agriculture ministry, which maintains a surprisingly low profile despite its integral role in the wider economy, should come out to reassure farmers and explain what measures it is taking to help contain the problem if it spreads over the border.