Rwanda says fall army worms damage 17 pct of maize crop

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By Clement Uwiringiyimana

KIGALI, April 21 (Reuters) – Rwanda said on Friday
crop-devouring caterpillars known as fall army worms had damaged
17 percent of its maize crop and the military had joined the
fight to halt their spread.

The pest is native to the Americas but has spread to African
countries including Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, South Africa,
Namibia, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo and
Uganda. Kenya is investigating a possible outbreak.

The worms’ presence in Rwanda was confirmed in early March.
Telesphore Ndabamenye, head of crop production and food security
at the Rwanda Agriculture Board, told Reuters the pests had
damaged about 10,600 hectares of maize crop out a total 63,000.

“Rwanda is a small country … we risk seeing this pest
spread to all maize farms,” he said.

Troops were on Friday picking the worms off maize in

“All our soldiers countrywide are trying to help clear these
caterpillars off farms,” Rwandan army spokesman, René
Ngendahimana, told Reuters.

The central African country produced about 900,000 metric
tons of maize last year.

The plague of fall army worms has fuelled worries that some
farmers could be left with nothing.

“We used to plant yams or potatoes but now the order is:
plant only maize,” farmer Bernard Bimenyimana, 56, told Reuters.

“You dare to plant other crops, the government uproots
(Editing by Elias Biryabarema and Andrew Roche)