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County in fight against mealybugs to protect crops

By MUTHOMI MUTHENGI
Paw paw fruits are attacked by mealybug at Mary Kageni farm in Kiamuriuki in Tharaka-Nithi County.( Muthengi Muthomi Standard)

Department of Agriculture in Tharaka-Nithi County has come up with a robust initiative to counter Mealybug crop invasion after Governor Muthomi Njuki declared the menace a county disaster.

The insect is attacking almost all types of crops, fodder and some wild plants in Tharaka-Nithi, Meru and Embu counties causing a threat of a beckoning starvation of both people and animals. The most affected crops are: paw paws, lemons, mangoes, beans, cassava, French beans, sunflower among others.

Several demonstrations

Led by the department executive Jasper Nkanya, the 60 top county agricultural officers including plant doctors met at the county headquarters Kathwana and resolved to conduct 600 demonstrations across the county in which farmers will be trained on how to battle the pest to avoid further loss.

For quick creation of public awareness on the outbreak and its danger, the team designed a poster with a message informing farmers on how to fight the insect including the appropriate pesticide to use which is being circulated on social media platforms.

Farmers whose crops have already been completely destroyed have been advised to uproot the remains and burn to avoid spread of the insects.

They have also been advised to avoid giving the attacked fodder to livestock to avoid more problems.

 Speaking to the media, Mr Nkanya said it was not easy to control the insects because they had spread even in the bushes.

“We are trying our best to control the spread of the insect to avoid more loss because already many farmers are counting huge losses,” said Mr Nkanya.

The officer said they had directed Sub County and ward administrators to educate members of public in barazas the best was to control the pest. He also appealed to the national government administration from the county commissioner to the village administrators to help create awareness of the outbreak and the possible eradication measures.

Speaking last week at St. Anthony Catholic Church in Mukothima, the county boss asked agricultural officers to leave offices and disburse into the villages to train farmers on the appropriate means of controlling the pest from consuming everything.

He said agricultural officers should give the farmers a solution to the problem before everything is lost.

“I have declared Mealybug invasion an emergency in our county and hereby direct all agricultural officers to visit the farms in order to inform farmers on how to control the dangerous insect that is threatening food security,” said Mr Njuki.

He said there was likelihood of a very serious hunger in the county because the little crops that had matured after rain failed to pour enough had been damaged by the Mealybug.

He noted that after rain failed for a number of seasons and such destruction happened in 1984, a serious famine was witnessed where even those with money had nothing to buy.

Desperate farmers have resulted to spraying crops with various concoctions made from tobacco, baking powder and washing detergent which they confessed that were clearing the pests.

According to the Chuka and Igambang’ombe sub counties agricultural officer Mr Nicholas Mokaya, the insects live together in clusters and attack fruits, flowers, leaves, pods, and stems of small crops sucking the sap.

He said after sometime, the crop turns black and eventually dry if the pests are not controlled. The officer asked farmers to always inspect their farms so that they can spray the crops in case they notice the attack.

“We urge our farmers to remain vigilant so that they can take action immediately they notice the pests on the crops,” said Mr Mokaya.

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