As we travelled through Western Kenya training farmers on the biology and management of fall armyworm in maize, we have learned that farmers are resorting to a variety of control methods. Some are “traditional” methods such as use of soil, fertilizers, baking soda, or, sprays prepared from ash, soap, chili peppers, and tobacco leaves. Insecticides are also widely used. For fall armyworm control, we advise farmers to consider using insecticides as a last resort and only if other management practices such as cultural, mechanical, and biological control methods fail to provide adequate protection.
We quickly learned that most farmers don’t use PPEs when handling, mixing, and applying pesticides. In some areas, we even heard of farmers that stir tank mixtures ready to be sprayed with bare hands. Clearly, there is an opportunity to train and encourage farmers on safe pesticide uses.
The AMPATH and Corteva team has recognized the importance of this topic and has started an initiative to create awareness by directly reaching out to farmers or through collaboration with other organizations. A section of our recently launched fall armyworm training is dedicated to rational and responsible uses of pesticides. This training is getting traction and we will continue to directly engage farmers on this topic in the future.
We participated in trainings and are collaborating with CABI (Centre For Agriculture and Biosciences International) as they lead the effort to tackle this challenge. Under this collaboration, CABI are training young people so that they become competent as ‘plant doctors’, able to identify most common pest problems and provide pest management recommendations for the farmers.
At the national level, the issue of safe use of pesticides is being addressed through collaborations with Agrochemicals Association of Kenya, Pest Control and Products Board, and CABI. These youth are also being trained on safe uses of pesticides, including use of recommended PPEs, so that they can provide spray services to farmers for a fee. This program will have a win-win outcome - farmers will obtain better recommendations and spray services and the youth, job opportunities.
The above efforts are encouraging and similar initiatives in the future will ensure that farmers will manage pests better using best crop protection handling and stewardship practices. AMPATH and Corteva continue to advocate for safe pesticide uses in Western Kenya.