RAB pushes for early prevention measures after armyworms reduce maize yield by 5%

Rwanda Agriculture Board has intensified efforts aimed at fighting fall armyworms after they reduced national maize yields by 5 per cent last season.

Rwanda Agriculture Board has intensified efforts aimed at fighting fall armyworms after they reduced national maize yields by 5 per cent last season. Armyworms attacked maize plantations early this year and though there were timely interventions to curtail their spread, the pests had already destroyed some of the crop. The pest can damage and destroy a wide variety of crops, including maize.

According to Agriculture Minister Geraldine Mukeshimana, the country had projected 208,000 tonnes of maize grain last season, but only 198,000 tonnes were produced following the armyworms attack. This was a reduction of 10,000 tonnes last season B or 5 per cent below target. Figures from the ministry show that the deadly insects affected 23 districts, affecting 15,699 hectares of maize and sorghum or 24.7 per cent of the total area under maize and sorghum countrywide last season.

Developing safeguards against armyworms

Dr Telesphore Ndabamenye, the head of crop production and food security department at RAB, said measures are being taken to ensure the current season’s yields are not affected.

“We trained and sensitised farmers about armyworms and deadly insects and diseases that can attack their crops. During this season, we have conducted trainings for farmers, agriculture advisors, farmer promoters and agronomists up to the village level. We adopted these measures so that farmers can be able to detect pest and disease attacks at the onset and apply preventative means like using pesticides,” he said while speaking to Business Times last week.

He said though the pests are still attacking some maize plantations early prevention measures have made it possible to curb their spread this season. He added that detection and prevention of the armyworms is essential to contain them. This must be supported by strong farmer extension groups, Twigire Muhinzi. The RAB official said pesticides were supplied early, noting that most of the chemicals were distributed free of charge.

The fall armyworms ravaged crops especially maize in several countries, including South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Swaziland, Malawi, Mozambique and Namibia, the DR Congo, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda.

During the recent meeting of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture in Kigali, experts discussed various measures of ensuring food security, including developing disease resistant varieties that can also withstand tough climatic conditions.

Current season projections

Ndabamenye said RAB would next month conduct a study to evaluate the status of the maize crop in the field so as to make yield estimates for the ongoing season.

“We will study the status of the crop and then make predictions on the estimated yields expected this season. But we are hopeful that the harvest will be good,” he said.