Food harvest improves as farmers contain army worm

By Pascal Kwesiga

Like in other affected areas, the officials from the agriculture ministry demonstrated to farmers how to spray crops under attack from the deadly worm and recommended pesticides - Striker and Rockett - to control the caterpillars.

Harvesting maize 350x210

A month ago, Kenneth Nyendwoha, a resident of Sonso River estate, Kabango parish in Masindi district, was extremely worried. His maize crop planted on five acres had been attacked by the lethal fall army worm, threatening to raze it.

Like in other affected areas, the officials from the agriculture ministry demonstrated to farmers how to spray crops under attack from the deadly worm and recommended pesticides - Striker and Rockett - to control the caterpillars.

Nyendwoha, the LCIII chairperson for Budongo sub county, followed the instructions, and a month later, his maize farm is blossoming again.

"The worm is no longer a big threat. Some farmers have been able to control it with the pesticides recommended by the ministry and others (pesticides). But the ones who did not have the money to buy the pesticides are still suffering," he said.

The Budongo sub county agricultural officer, Simon Kyomya, said with the fall armyworm under control, and farmers already harvesting beans and maize, the area is steadily getting food secure.

"We first got 10 liters of pesticide from the ministry and more 1o liters two weeks ago. People are now harvesting and you can be sure to find fresh beans and maize in the market now," he added.

As a result, Kyomya explained that the prices of food items are gradually falling, with a kilogram of beans going for between sh2, 800 and sh3, 000 instead of sh3, 400 before.

The director of crop resources in the agriculture ministry, Opolot Okasai, said almost all areas that started receiving rains in March are food secure.

Food aid

He added that only Teso and Karamoja sub regions, including Ntoroko district, which started receiving rains late April, are still experiencing food shortage, and still need food aid.

"Farmers who received rains in March are now harvesting. But areas like Teso and Karamoja still need food aid. However, people in those areas will also be harvesting in 30 days' time," Okasai explained, "Even Isingiro got rains early and the situation is improving,"

According to the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), the Government recently allocated sh25b to procure food items for the communities in need of food aid. The recent national food security assessment report indicated that most of the hunger-stricken areas included Teso, Karamoja, Bukedi, Acholi, the cattle corridor, Lango, West Nile and some parts in Busoga and central region.

With the dry spell loosening its grip and the lethal armyworm being brought under control, the entire country, according to the agriculture ministry, will be food secure in a month's time. The fall armyworm, Okasai, said, however, has spread to over 70 districts, attacking maize, sorghum, rice, millet and beans.

The ministry has conducted demonstration exercises for farmers on the pest control in over 80 districts. "We are told the worm has started attacking and destroying the grain the fields but farmers who followed our instructions should be able to control it," Okasai stated.

The Kiryandongo district production officer, Isha Byenkya, said all farmers who adhered to the instructions and sprayed their crops between 6:00am and 8:00am and 5:00pm onwards have been able to control the pest.

However, the farmers who did not have money to procure the recommended pesticides are still grappling with the deadly pest.

"We may lose between 30% and 40% of maize. We plant maize on 100,000ha in Kiryandongo per season and produce about 1,000 kilograms from one acre," Byenkya said.