Armyworm - Kenya government backs RIU Best Bet forecasting tool
24 May 2010
One of the RIU Best Bet partner organisations has hosted a conference in Nairobi this week called Winning the War Against Armyworms.
In her key note speech Kenya Agriculture Minister, Hon Dr Sally Kosgei
, MP, urged the rapid expansion of a new community-based armyworm forecasting scheme.
The conference was organized by Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux International (CABI)
, the science-based agricultural information and development organization, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Kenya and funded by the Ninth European Development Fund through the SADC-ICART Programme
The conference brought together the different people involved in tackling the problem of armyworm, including policy-makers, entrepreneurs, regulators, communicators, extension workers, manufacturers of pesticides and scientists. They shared experiences of the new tools developed to help smallholder farmers across East and Southern Africa, exploring how to avoid the devastation typically caused by this pest, which can destroy entire crops within days. Armyworms are voracious black caterpillars that attack grasses and cereal crops, such as maize, sorghum, millet, rice, wheat and pastures. They appear suddenly in large numbers, often catching farmers unprepared. An outbreak can destroy thousands of hectares in a few days.
An RIUtv film on armyworm forecasting
was shown during the opening session of the conference.
The conference will end with an agreement on the next steps in a programme designed to transfer the knowledge derived from research and apply it widely in the field. This process is also the focus of RIU's Best Bets funding
Evidence of success
Pilot projects have shown that after three seasons of community-based forecasting in Tanzania:
- more farmers were aware that outbreaks can be forecast (up from 32% to 70%)
- more farmers received outbreak warnings (up from 26% to 52%)
- more farmers controlled the most recent outbreak (up from 32% to 82%)
CABI's Roger Day said:
"In Tanzania, it is estimated that if community-based armyworm forecasting was implemented in all villages affected by armyworms, it could save the country US $1m every year. If implemented in high-risk areas throughout Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and Zimbabwe, we anticipate that much more money could be saved each year, improving the lives of local farmers and contributing to food security."
Director of RIU Ian Maudlin said:
"We are delighted that this investment in an armyworm forecasting tool has had an impact on policy and practice so quickly. This is one of eight RIU Best Bets and we have high hopes that we will be reporting many more success stories like this over the coming months."
Community-based armyworm forecasting, initially developed by CABI in conjunction with the Plant Health Services, Ministry of Agriculture, Tanzania and the Natural Resources Institute, UK
, is a cheap and effective way of helping farmers predict armyworm outbreaks. Government extension workers train local farmers to use insect traps and rain gauges to make weekly predictions on the likelihood of an armyworm attack in their area, giving communities the information they need to take timely preventative measures and reduce crop losses. Development of the forecasting tool was funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID)
More details can be found in the following press release: