The Star (Nairobi)

22 August 2014

Kenya: Blight Ruins 7,000 Acres of Kerio Maize

OVER 7,000 acres of maize have been destroyed by the maize lethal necrosis disease in Kerio Valley, worsening the already severe food insecurity in parts of Elgeyo Marakwet and Pokot counties.

Some 2,000 farmers in the region are counting losses running into more than Sh100 million. Elgeyo Marakwet Agriculture executive Stella Rono visited the affected areas to assess the situation.

"This is a strange disease that started from the South Rift region," Rono told the Star, adding that the symptoms left no doubt about its diagnosis. The affected plantations include the Kapkamak-Arror irrigation scheme.

Another 100 acres in the neighboring Kocholwo division in Soy South location in Elgeyo-Marakwet county have also been wiped out. Experts advise that the farmers uproot and burn the crops and skip planting maize for one season so that the disease does not recur.

Rono said the county government had started educating farmers on the dangers of the disease and how to help control its spread. The Kenya Seed Company had invested heavily in chemicals to stop the spread of the disease, but it's still recurring in many farms.

"We have come up with new varieties which will be resistant to the disease," said CEO Willy Bett when he met with farmers in Eldoret recently. Arror MCA Christopher Chemosong and his Soy South counterpart Gilbert Kaptugen said residents of the region may suffer from famine due to the disease.

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