5 July 2012

Kenya: Farmers Hit By Maize Disease Won't Be Paid

Photo: Mauricio Ramos/IPS

MAIZE farmers whose crop was destroyed by the Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease will not be compensated. Ministry of Agriculture PS Romano Kiome ruled out any form of compensation on grounds that the government has no provision for incidents of unexpected crop diseases. Farmers, activists and politicians have been agitating for the government interventions including compensation of the affected small scale farmers who depend on the crop for subsistence. "We can not predict or anticipate such misfortunes we therefore have no kitty to cushion farmers when it occurs," said Kiome.

He said the ministry is working on a long term solution to avoid a repeat in the future. Kiome said one of the ways the government will use is by providing farmers with disease resistant seeds. Kiome said they will avail nine disease resistant lines of new maize seed varieties developed by Kenya Agricultural Research Institute once they are certified. He asked the farmers to exercise patience and in the meantime uproot the affected crop and destroy it. Kiome told farmers to plant other types of crops next season as a stop gap measure.

According to Kiome, the impact of the lost crop will not be significant at the national level. So far only about 21,000 hectares of the crop are affected, with an estimated output of 150,000 bags of maize, out of the national total production of 34 million bags. "Our only worry is that the virus is still spreading and there is no telling how much more damage it might cause before the harvesting season," Kiome said. "The only control measure that can be applied is intensive spraying using very expensive chemicals which farmers cannot afford and even if they could, it does not make economic sense".

He said the grain basket in the North Rift has not been affected, giving hope that there will be enough maize in the market. The South Rift regions and some parts of Central are the worst hit by the disease. The disease is believed to be spread by Aphids and Thrips, both tiny types of insects that hide under plant leaves.

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