Rare insects have destroyed about 500 acres of crops in Munyiginya Sector, Rwamagana District, leaving farmers counting losses.
While residents said it is common to see pests eating and destroying crops around this time, recent attacks have taken a considerable toll.
Speaking to The New Times, anxious farmers have appealed for urgent intervention from local authorities and the government.
Jean Damascene Mbonimana, a 54-year-old maize farmer from Munyinya Sector, said families may face hunger in the future if the intervention is not fast.
“Our crops have been left leafless and blackened. All that remains are thin stumps. I am afraid we may lack what to sell or eat in the future,” he said.
The insects destroy a plant by covering the underside of its leaves, blocking its openings and preventing it from producing food.
“The openings are covered, suffocating the leaves. Chlorophyll production is diminished because there is reduced photosynthetic activity. Photosynthesis is needed for plants to produce food. The leaves wither and yet without these leaves, plants cannot survive,” said Innocent Ukizuru, the district agriculture officer.
Ukizuru said the damage to the plants is initially difficult to detect, adding that farmers take longer to realise that there is a problem which allows the pest population to grow.
Nehemie Uwimana, the Rwamagana District mayor, said the speed at which the insects multiply and spread led farmers to believe they were dealing with a rare specie of insects from outside the country.
He, however, said the government would contain the infestation by clearing away the area around infected plants, thereby creating a buffer zone to prevent its spread.
“We have taken a vigorous approach against these pests. Farmers should also report immediately any infestations. We are working hard to find a solution, so that the insects do not spread so quickly. Affected plants will be destroyed while they are still relatively few,” Uwimana said.
He said up to 30 per cent of the area’s plants and crops may be destroyed by the insects.