With their farms devastated by Fall Army worms, Kenyan farmers have turned to traditional concoctions that are keeping the pests at bay.
In the Mt Kenya region, farmers are using a concoction of red pepper, ash and tobacco to kill the destructive fall armyworms.
The inexpensive pest control method is becoming popular with local farmers faced with heavy losses from the worms.
For instance, members of Mwirutiri Self Help Group in Embu Copunty have experimented with the method and claim it has worked on their maize crop.
“We collect the cooled off ash and sieve the debris. For every two 2kg container of ash, we mix two teaspoons of red pepper and three teaspoons of tobacco,” said Dorothy Nyaguthii, the group’s chairperson.
“We apply the mixture at around 6.30pm because the pest usually eats the maize at night. We apply it once every week about three times to control the pests. The first application kills the young worms. The second one kills the big ones and the third kills the eggs,” said Nyaguthii.
Lucy Wanjohi, who uses the concoction, said she lost nearly her whole crop to the worms in the last season as she could not afford to buy pesticides. The women however said the method was laborious and they had to wear face masks to prevent sneezing from inhaling the potent mixture. Diocese Assistant Director John Munene said the concoction had helped many farmers. But Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation Embu station research officer Johnson Nyasani said even if the method was working, it needed to be subjected to efficacy trials first.
In Kerio valley Maize farmers have resorted to using a homemade spray made of a mixture of tobacco, ashes, washing powder and water to kill the worms.
Mr Samuel Sigei, a farmer in Kericho said that has been diluting Ariel powder soap to spray to his plants.
“I am seeing it working. The attack is minimal on my side compared to the neighbouring farms,” he noted.
He mixes 25 grams of the detergent in 20 litres of water and sprays it on a one-acre farm.
As scientists continue to test various pestiicides to tackle one of Africa’s most devastating pest, various tactics – both old and new – are being tested to try and control the fall army worm. These include the use of inter-cropping technology, natural enemies, early warning systems and use of biopesticides.