Food security situation remains under control despite fall armyworms ravaging maize plantations in parts of the country, Dr Gerardine Mukeshimana, the minister for agriculture and animal resources, has said.
First reported in Nyamagabe District at the end of February, the pest has so far ravaged an estimated 15,699 hectares of farmland (a quarter of the country’s total area of 63,499 hectares planted with maize).
This represents about 5 per cent of the total cultivated land countrywide this season.
“The armyworms will not seriously impact food security because maize was not cultivated in large areas during season 2017B,” Mukeshimana said.
“Up to 95 per cent of the total cultivated land this season (1,300,000 hectares) is covered by other crops, which will sustain food security.”
The crops include beans, Irish potatoes, banana, rice, wheat, soybeans, and cassava that have been prioritised under the Crop Intensification Programme (CIP). Other subsistence crops, such as sweet potatoes, have also been grown during this season to ensure food security, the minister adds.
Mukeshimana said the Government stepped up efforts to fight armyworms in the beginning of 2017 after the pest was reported in some Southern African countries.
Farmers across the country were alerted and a campaign was conducted to inform them on how to identify and fight armyworms, she said.
The Ministry of Agriculture initiated radio talk shows to raise awareness about the pest, the minister said. In addition, massive training of farmers, agronomists and local leaders at the district and sector levels have taken place on differentiating fall armyworms from maize stalk borer for better targeted control measures, according to the minister.
The Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) has provided insecticides to affected farmers who have limited means, in order to facilitate quick intervention, she added.
Some farmer cooperatives and individuals have taken the initiative to purchase chemicals from agro-dealers on their own.
The ministry also sought support from other institutions, mainly Local Government, Rwanda Defence Forces and Rwanda National Police, in the exercise to spray pesticides and collect armyworms from affected farms.
The pesticides being used are eco-friendly to avoid further adverse effects to the environment, agriculture experts said.
“From the time the ministry and other institutions started spraying pesticides, the armyworms have reduced. However, efforts are still underway and will continue for a long time to ensure that the pest is completely eradicated,” Minister Mukeshimana said.
“The ministry is working hand in hand with local leaders countrywide to support farmers in getting rid of the armyworms,” she added.
The fall armyworm was first reported in West Africa in January 2016. Between December 2016 and March 2017, it was reported in several countries in Southern, and Eastern Africa.
On Wednesday, Mukeshimana informed Cabinet that, as of this week, the pest has been reported in all districts of the country.
Cabinet called upon all the population and stakeholders to help fight the pest.