fall; armyworm; crops

Fall armyworm continues to threaten food security in East Africa

The highly invasive fall armyworm is steadily spreadingon the African continent after several countries recently reported  damage caused by the pest.

In Rwanda, part of the East African complex, about 80% of the population depend on  agriculture [for food], and the fall armyworm presents a serious threat to food security.

According to the Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), the first sighting of the fall armyworm was in February. The pest subsequently spread to nine districts in the Southern Province.

The Rwandan government announced the outbreak on Wednesday, with the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) brought in to help with efforts to eradicate the worm.

It had already airlifted about  4 500 litres of pesticide in the battle against the pest.

According to the RDF, the fall armyworm is “a real threat to national food security.”

The fall armyworm feeds on staple foods like maize, wheat, millet, rice, cotton, potatoes, soybeans and tobacco crops.

Last month, Uganda confirmed a fall armyworm outbreak, with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) calling it a “huge threat to food security.”

The [Ugandan] government estimated the country’s losses in damage to crops to be US$193 million.

News agency Standard Digital reported Kenya to be on the brink of a food crisis after the fall armyworm invasion.

It has now spread to 13 African countries since 2016.

Dry conditions coupled with the outbreak of fall armyworm have taken a toll on food security, with an increase in prices of basic commodities like unga and sugar.

The Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries urged farmers to take immediate action against fall armyworm and recommended nine insecticides which can be used to combat the pest.

The first outbreak of fall armyworm was reported in September 2016 in West Africa.

It spread to South Africa destroying more than 100 000 ha of maize in three African countries.

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