The fall armyworm, a deadly pest that destroys maize gardens, is ravaging crops in eastern and western Uganda despite government investing Shs4.5 billion to purchase pesticides to help contain it, Chimpreports has learnt.
The latest cases have been reported in Rubanda, Bukedea and Amudat districts, where farmers say thousands of maize fields have been eaten up by the migratory caterpillar that is believed to have originated from America in 2016, through Nigeria, South Africa and later to Sub-Saharan Africa.
“The devastation the resurging worm is having on maize crops planted in early march of this year is similar to what we saw last year; its attacking the plant leaves and shoots ,” said David Elungat, the Malera Sub-county speaker in Bukedea.
“Different pesticides were tried last year but there was no specific one that proofed to be efficient in controlling the pest,”Elungat added.
Last year, government released Shs4.5 billion to purchase pesticides to help control the worm that had spread to more than 54 districts. The Agriculture ministry procured the pesticides which were distributed by Operation Wealth Creation officials to farmers.
However, the commissioner for crop protection in the Agriculture ministry, Stephen Byantwale, says whereas government sprayed many parts of the country, the worm is very slippery and more of its remnants may have entered the country.
“The rainy season has come with very strong winds and this could have helped the movement of the fall army worm in Uganda,” says Byantwale, adding that since this worm was sprayed in maize gardens, it may have hidden in other crops which were not sprayed.
“The moment maize is not available, the worm shifts to other plants, which farmers may not have detected,” he adds.
The commissioner urges farmers to undertake routine plant checks for evidence of eggs of the worm, adding that government is committed to sensitizing farmers over the disease.
Last year, Dr Samuel Mugasa, the National Agricultural Advisory Services Executive director recommended that the farmers use Striker, Rocket and Dudu’fenos as pesticides to fight the armyworm. He urged farmers to spray their gardens twice a day between 8am and 10am and in the evening between 4pm and 6pm.
Maize contributes to the livelihoods of over 3.6 million households (UBOS, 2014). Based on the estimated yield loss of 15%-75% elsewhere, the presence of the armyworm in Uganda could translate to an annual loss of at least 450,000 metric tonnes of maize that is equivalent to $192m (about Shs600b).