Farmers in Ol Moran Ward in Laikipia County are counting heavy losses following an invasion of armyworms, which have wiped out hundreds of acres of maize.
The African armyworms have been feeding on maize, grass and wheat, with farmers unable to control them.
The pests are a species of the moth family and they often exhibit marching behaviour when moving to feeding sites, leading to the common name “armyworm”.
The worms mainly target young plants of between 15cm and 30cm, feeding on the leaves and stems and destroying the plant completely.
Hundreds of acres affected
Kirima Deputy County Commissioner John Orata said hundreds of acres of land had been affected, causing fears of food shortages.
“The pests have been here for the past one month and the entire Ol Moran Ward has been affected. The destruction is running into hundreds of acres but certain intervention by the Ministry of Agriculture are in place,” Agriculture Chief Officer Emily Kioko said. Farmers decried the high cost of pesticides, saying, they could not afford them.
“I have lost three acres of maize and I am trying to stop the pests from destroying the remaining one acre. The cost of pesticide is Sh700 for a 10-litre knapsack sprayer,” said Mr Ezekiel Nyambane in Merigwet village.
Mr Nyambane said many farmers have been forced to watch helplessly as their crops are destroyed.
Erratic weather patterns
The invasion, which experts attribute to erratic weather patterns due to climate change, comes as Ol Moran, the breadbasket of Laikipia County, was expecting a bumper harvest.
Forecasts from the Kenya Meteorological Department had indicated that Laikipia West and Kirima sub-counties would receive normal rainfall in June, July and August, giving hope to residents as other parts of the county are experiencing severe drought.
Last season, at the height of conflicts between farmers and pastoralists, farmers incurred heavy losses when migrating herders drove cattle into maize farms, destroying the crops that were almost ready for harvest.