Kenya investigates reports of armyworms in maize fields

by Reuters
Wednesday, 5 April 2017 13:02 GMT

Army worms eat maize leaves as they attack a maize garden in Ngong township, Kenya, in this 1999 archive photo. REUTERS/George Mulala

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Neighbouring Uganda confirmed last month that the pests had attacked crops in the country

NAIROBI, April 5 (Reuters) - Kenya has sent a team of scientists and other experts to investigate reports of crop-eating caterpillars known as fall armyworms in maize fields in the western region of Trans-Nzoia, a senior government official said on Wednesday.

Neighbouring Uganda confirmed last month that the pests had attacked crops on farms in about 20 districts in the country, heightening concerns that they could spread into Kenya.

Johnson Irungu, the director of crops at the ministry of agriculture, said the team was sent in two weeks ago after reports the pests had appeared in maize crops being grown by farmers using irrigation.

Kenya is suffering from a drought that has left about 2.7 million people in need of food aid and driven up inflation to a near-five year high.

Irungu said they were working with local authorities to deal with the armyworm attacks.

"We are also requesting farmers to at least control them within their boundaries," he said.

The caterpillar is native to North and South America, though it has already spread to other parts of Africa including Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique and Democratic Republic of Congo.

The United Nations fears it could reach Asia and the Mediterranean in the next few years.

(Reporting by Duncan Miriri. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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